Movie Mondays: Swords, Sandals, Shorts and David Bowie
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Movie Mondays: Swords, Sandals, Shorts and David Bowie

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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Remember when Avatar was in theatres, friends? And it was screening on like every screen in every cinema in two and three dimensions and it ran for like a thousand weeks? Well we think that should happen with Patrick Lussier’s Drive Angry 3D, probably our favourite more-than-two-dimensional film since James Cameron pitted 3D mech robots against 3D space dinosaurs. So this week, we’ll strongly encourage you to go out, and to drive angry. Because this’ll probably be the last week when you can do so in full 3D. And we’ve got some other stuff too.

Scotiabank Toronto (259 Richmond Street West)

mm_scotia.jpg A few weeks ago, when Patrick Lussier’s excellent Drive Angry 3D hit theatres, we urged you to go see it. Because even though we get like three or four Nic Cage films a year, this one stands out. And because how often do you get a modern carsploitation film that’s also suffused with southern fried Satanism and isn’t Death Proof? And most of all, because it’s great.
Instead of just repeating those sentiments, we’ll stress something else: the 3D. Now we’re not huge on 3D, and sympathize with many of the more strained arguments that it’s the death knell of capital-C Cinema proper. But, if you’re shooting films that function strictly as popcorn fare, and you’re doing it well, 3D can be okay. For instance, Avatar. Or Drive Angry 3D. Apart from all the coming-right-atcha weapon hucking, Lussier flings images across windows, rear-views, and any other makeshift screens he can find, expanding time and the image’s depth at once (like when a 3D flashback plays out on the windscreen of Cage’s car). It’s kind of what Neveldine and Taylor do in Crank. Except in 3D. And Nicolas Cage drinks a beer out of a guy’s skull. So just go see it this week. It might be your last chance. It’s playing in 3D until Thursday at the Scotiabank. Don’t go see it in 2D. Because then you’re just seeing Drive Angry.

The Lightbox (350 King Street West)

mm_lightbox.jpg If you like free stuff, you’d do well to get down to TIFF Bell Lightbox at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 9 . Why? Well, besides offering you an opportunity to come in out of the cold, the Lightbox and the Music Gallery are co-presenting a program of short films curated by Toronto musician Mantler (Chris Cummings), called Mantler’s Visual Music.
Selecting a series by filmmakers such as Norman McLaren, Len Lye, Oskar Fischinger, and other abstract animators, Mantler’s hope is to share his enthusiasm for odd films and music. One film, in which crystals are treated with UV light while a Bing Crosby song plays on the soundtrack, was originally produced for use in psychiatric hospitals. Weird. And in addition to all the free films, Mantler will also be mounting a short, fifteen minute solo performance. And once again, it’s all free. Free!

The Bloor (506 Bloor Street West)

mm_bloor.jpg Nowadays it’s fairly trendy to make sci-fi films that eschew all the tired hallmarks of the genre (spaceships, aliens, robots that acquire sentience and rebel against humanity) in favour of all the more conceptual stuff—Never Let Me Go, or Moon, for instance. These are films that relish in sci-fi’s emotional grey matter, and are less concerned with special effects and high technology. But in the ‘70s, before SFX exploded as a result of Star Wars and its imitators, there was a similar trend. Think of the modernist dystopia of A Clockwork Orange or even the original Alien, which was basically just a white-knuckle haunted house picture set in space. Then there’s Nic Roeg’s 1976 epic, The Man Who Fell to Earth.
Starring David Bowie (whose kid, incidentally, directed Moon) as an extra-terrestrial who comes to Earth in order to bring back water to save his dying planet, Roeg’s film flips many sci-fi conventions on their head. First of all, the main character is an alien, and it’s through his glassy eyes that our own planet is rendered weird, exotic, and decadent. Bowie’s alien becomes ensnared by Earth, not just because his spaceship has crashed, but because of booze, TV, and lonely women. He’s adrift, pulled apart by two competing worlds. It’s kind of like Five Easy Pieces, except the main character is from outer space and you get to see Rip Torn’s penis. When can you see Rip Torn’s penis exactly? How about Wednesday, March 9 at 9 p.m. at the Bloor?

The Underground (186 Spadina Avenue)

mm_underground.jpg If you were to get John Milius to write a film and then bring in Oliver Stone to co-write it, and out-Milius Milius, and then name that film Conan the Barbarian, you’d probably end up with 1982’s Conan the Barbarian. Based on the sword-and-sandal stories of Robert E. Howard and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as the titular barbarian, Conan is a tale of ancient gods. And steel. And the relationship between the two. So basically, it’s any Manowar song made into a movie.
As a boy, young Conan’s village gets razzed by a conqueror named Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones). After narrowly escaping, our burly hero spends the formative years of his life training for his extremely masculine and thematically rich revenge. Boasting such potently named genre flourishes as the Wheel of Pain, the Mountain of Power and—who can forget?—the steel-loving god Crom, Conan wraps its proto-fascist fable of rule by power in proto-fascist upholstery like big swords, bulging muscles, and other stuff befitting Boris Valleho posters. Go see it Thursday, March 10 at 7 p.m. at the Underground. The gods will be pleased with you.

Illustrations by Clayton Hanmer/Torontoist.

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