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Movie Mondays: Asbestos, Muppets, and More

As a means of rounding up Toronto’s various cinematic goings-on each week, Movie Mondays compiles the best rep cinema and art house screenings, special presentations, lectures, and limited engagements.
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It’s a pretty well-rounded week for movie-going, moviegoers. This week, we’ve got one of the year’s most memorably depressing films, a Canadian classic, and even some Muppets. Also, there’s a thing going on where local film writers debate the merits of their favourite crappy movies, which you should all go to. Just get out of the house. Believe it or not, it beats slumping around inside griping about the Oscars.

The Bloor (506 Bloor Street West)

mm_bloor.jpg In the few months since Blue Valentine was released, a lot of people have wasted a lot of breath defending the merits of Blue Valentine. Some people have called it predictable, which is pretty stupid considering that the film is predicated on a romance gone sour. Others have blasted Ryan Gosling’s character for being unbelievably goofy and stupid, even though he’s basically the male equivalent of all the implausible manic-pixie dream girls you see running around Annie Hall or Eternal Sunshine or Elizabethtown or whatever. So yeah. Shut up. Blue Valentine is a good movie. Okay?
Okay. And now that winter’s thawing out (knock wood), you have a chance to get bummed out all over again. Watch as the Talents of Their Generation, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, fall pathetically in love! Witness their romance grow cold and bitter as they roll around drunk in a cheap hotel room made to look like a spaceship! Cry when the dog dies! See it all again on Monday, February 28 at 9:10 p.m. at the Bloor, you hopeless romantics.

NFB Mediatheque (150 John Street)

mm_misc.jpg It’s been a while since we gave our pals at the NFB some love. And for that, we are truly sorry. But this week, they’ve got something we can’t ignore. On Thursday, March 3 at 7 p.m., the Mediatheque is cuing up Claude Jutra’s 1971 classic of this, our national cinema, Mon oncle Antoine.
Set in a rural Quebec mining town called Black Hawk, on the cusp of the Asbestos Strike in the late 1940s, Antoine examines the manner in which even the old school, agrarian, deeply religious regions of Quebec helped shape the changes of the Quiet Revolution in the 1960s. Recreating the period with incredible attention to detail, Jutra’s film conveys a sense of a real, lived-in community deflated by the harsh realities of mining. (That the mine owner is a smug Anglophone further strengthened its federalist/separatist undertones.) It’s kind of like that play Our Town, except everyone is drunk and dying of lung disease.

The Underground (186 Spadina Avenue)

mm_underground.jpg So bad movie culture is pretty hot right now. And especially in Toronto. But bad movie culture tends to centre on “so-bad-it’s-good” movies—stuff like The Room or Troll 2 or Birdemic (and really, the last half of Birdemic is awful, any way you cut it). But what about movies so bad they’re bad? The kind of films that aren’t even guilty pleasures that nobody’s really guilty about? What about the turds that flopped, got dumped on by critics, or are otherwise considered among the worst movies ever? There’s got to be people that love those, right?
Well, this Friday, March 4 at 7 p.m., the Underground will see two local film writers, Norm Wilner from NOW Magazine and the guy from Torontoist who writes this very column that you’re reading right now, squaring off to defend the merits of their favourite rotten apples. Wilner will beat his chest for Alien: Resurrection , the Alien movie directed by the guy who directed Amélie. Then at 9:30 p.m., your faithful Torontoist stalwart will valiantly defend Tom Green’s radically transgressive minor masterpiece, Freddy Got Fingered. Of course there’s the niggling question of why would anyone come see two shitty movies. Answer: because you get to hear people go blue in the face standing up for them. And because part of the ticket sales go to charity. So if you don’t come, you’re basically robbing a charity.

The Lightbox (350 King Street West)

mm_lightbox.jpg When words like “faerie” or “dwarf” or “Muppet” pop into your head, you probably think of some pretty lighthearted scenarios. Stuff like a faerie and a dwarf eating magical crumpets on a mystic toadstool while their unicorns are tied to an adjacent ancient elm and a Muppet bops around in the background playing an out-of-tune saxophone or something. Or maybe just the faerie, the dwarf, and the Muppet riding down a hilarious highway in a funny old jalopy while some jaunty Paul Williams song plays on the radio. Point is, you probably don’t think about meditations on destiny and evil and heavy stuff like that. And if you do, you’re probably thinking of Dark Crystal.
Set a long time ago in an age of wonder far, far away, Jim Henson and Frank Oz’s 1982 film took the art, science, and philosophy of Muppetry to new frontiers. The fantastic tale of a Jen, a kind of puppet-elf believed to be the last of his kind, as he journeys to find the crystal shard that can repair the legendary Dark Crystal, the film mixes the thematic heaviness of The Lord of the Rings with the blithe, crystal-repair-based adventuring of early Final Fantasy. And Muppets? You bet! Dark Crystal screens on Saturday, March 5 at 2 p.m. at the Lightbox as part of their ongoing Back to the ’80s program.

Illustrations by Clayton Hanmer/Torontoist.

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