Each week, Now in Rep Cinema compiles the best repertory and art house screenings, special presentations, lectures, and limited engagements.
|Machete Maidens Unleashed
The Projection Booth
Tuesday, August 2, 9:30 p.m.
|In a Better World
Wednesday, August 3, 9 p.m. p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox
Friday, August 5, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, August 5, 9 p.m.
Now that the summer 2011 movie season has more or less come and gone, it’s time to cook up some comprehensive evaluation. Summer 2011 is in an interesting position, poised as it before summer 2012—which promises to be one of the most massive in recent memory. Two of the most anticipated superhero movies will plunk in theatres next year: Joss Whedon’s Marvel Universe–assembling The Avengers and Christopher Nolan’s much-anticipated return to the murk of Gotham City, The Dark Knight Rises. There’s also the Spider-Man reboot. And the Battleship movie, another Hasbro-property-turned-film. (Paramount also has the sequel to 2009’s Star Trek reboot scheduled for June 2012, but being as they haven’t even started shooting yet, that will certainly get pushed back, likely by a whole year.)
In a way, summer 2011 kind of laid the tracks for next summer. And not only by setting up The Avengers with the okay Thor film and the excellent Captain America: The First Avenger. The wrapping of two long-running franchises, Harry Potter and Transformers (which, god willing, is done, done, done), means that there a fresher hell to mine: new franchises with profitability to test and boardgames to over-plot. There were also a few cooler things to emerge this summer, which proved that studio comedies could be very profitable, with the successes of the lousy Hangover Part II and the very funny Bridesmaids. It also proved that original properties—ick, why are we even using words like “properties”?! We’ve been conditioned! “Stories,” we mean! “Ideas”!—are viable, with J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, which emerges as probably this summer’s most memorable blockbuster, despite its flaws.
Now, even calling Super 8 “original” seems a bit of a misnomer, given how closely it hews to the wide-eyed spectacle and sometimes-syrupy emotional registers of its executive producer and sacred cow, Steven Spielberg. If he had been born a generation and a half earlier, there’s little doubt that Abrams would have made a fine addition to Spielberg’s roster of talent: the guys like Joe Dante and Robert Zemeckis who made all the goofier, edgier mainstream flicks that Spielberg himself couldn’t make, and instead just slapped his name on (films like Gremlins or Back to the Future, for example). If someone like Dante is like the weird cousin of Steven Spielberg (it’s fun to imagine them sitting at the same long Thanksgiving dinner table, Dante half-cruelly kicking at the family dog under the table while a young Spielberg distractedly sculpts his mashed potatoes), Abrams is more like the direct spawn. It’s all too easy, too, to imagine Abrams screening Super 8’s dailies for Spielberg, eagerly awaiting a nod of approval. Why it’s an image that’s practically Spielbergian in its bad-daddy subtext!
But, all things considered, you could have worse role models. And Abrams does Spielberg pretty well. Super 8 has the same air of sci-fi mystique that defines something like Close Encounters, where the fun of the film emerges in the building of unanswered questions. It’s also kid friendly, not only in the way that it understands children (the kids in Jaws, E.T., and Jurassic Park are better developed than anything in any of the Transformers films). Drawing, no doubt, from his own experience, Abrams gets what it’s like to be 11 or 12 and trapped in the ‘burbs, where the only form of escape comes in the form of watching (and making) movies, and painstakingly detailing models of old Universal Monsters. Super 8’s tenderness is earned. And that’s what makes it such a winning film, and one which holds up after multiple viewings.
Even if the film does have a poorly defined monster, and a pretty weak ending (Abrams always seems to want to keep asking questions, rather than bothering to answer them in any meaningful way), it also has one of the best train crash sequences ever caught on film. And, with any luck, it’ll bring back people describing things as “mint.” Which, frankly, has always been a pretty mint expression.
Also Unspooling…Machete Maidens Unleashed
It feels like an almost historic occasion, writing this first listing for the newly revamped Projection Booth on Gerrard East. Following up on their promise to screen lots of indie flicks, the Projection Booth is finding their footing with a slate of recent indie documentaries. Among these is Mark Hartley’s Machete Maidens Unleashed, a follow-up to his “Oz-ploitation” doc Not Quite Hollywood. Like in his earlier film, Hartley sets about cataloguing the various gory and pornographic excesses of a lurid footnote in exploitation cinema history. Maidens zeroes in on the cheapie American genre pictures (mostly backed by Roger Corman) made in the Philippines in the 1970s. For anyone looking for a crash course in chained women pictures, or the filmography of pint-sized Filipino action star Weng-Weng, Machete Maidens Unleashed is a handy primer.
In a Better World
So this movie is about a well-to-do Danish family, cutting between the father’s work as a doctor in a Sudanese refugee camp and the troubles of the 12-year-old son at school. It won best foreign language film at this year’s Academy Awards, in addition to a swell of other accolades. I seem to remember walking out of it when it played at TIFF, probably to get a snack or go see something more promising. But hey! What do I know? Nothing, apparently! It won an Oscar! And, in doing so, basically renders a year’s worth of bi-weekly film recommendations on my part invalid. Anyways, if you want to see In a Better World, here it is.
Hey you know what’s banal? White-collar labour. But anyone who’s ever seen Falling Down, or the music video for “Music at Work,” or any episode of The Kids in the Hall knows that, right? Well Ermanno Olmi’s Il Posto, a late example of Italian neorealism which is playing as part of the Lightbox’s series on Italian neorealism, knew all this decades before it became common knowledge, way back when the idea of middle-class “professional” labour was seen as a relief from the drudgery of physical labour. Following a teenage boy who goes to work to support his family, Il Posto works through the dehumanizing process of working at a desk, from the interview process through to the prospect of lifetime job security. At once a deeply affecting human drama and a satire of Italy’s economic development post–Second World War, Il Posto remains a harrowing, and darkly funny, portrait of the life of the nine-to-five paper-pusher.