Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Springtime in Toronto

In Natty Zavitz’ Edging (now available on iTunes) a young man is in a period of transition in his life. Having just bought a house, he’s having a housewarming party with friends from throughout his life but where instead of hosting he’s stubbornly focused on a home maintenance problem in his garage. Edging is a tale of springtime in Toronto. Where the rest of the city, and the world too, is moving forward with confidence, after a harsh winter, in what should be a period of renewal, its protagonist Jordan (Shomari Downer) gets stuck on one of the immediate problems at hand: The garage door is broken. Throughout the film, old friends come and go, recollecting about their youth and current anxieties, while new acquaintances come through, enjoying themselves and getting into trouble, but for Jordan, to make sense of the confusion and chaos around him, he has to remove himself from the social center, contemplate and discuss, so that he can eventually regain self-confidence and grow.
            This narrative of anxiety and growth is a great metaphor for how I’m experiencing the Toronto film culture in the Spring of 2018. By all accounts it’s thriving: Every night there’s an exciting screening, on weekends a new festival and publications are putting forward relevant polemics. Some positive recent examples: There’s the publication of the new André Bazin’s Selected Writing, the film magazines Cahiers, Positif and Cinema Scope are on point, CBC’s new shows Workin’ Moms and Caught exceeded expectations, and there’s the upcoming What The Film Festival and Canadian Film Fest. Regardless of the problems in the world, the consensus seems to be that Toronto film folks are forming communities, pursuing goals and achieving results. All really great things.
            But sometimes it’s important to step back a little and figure out what you need to do before you can go out to join others.

Monday, March 19, 2018

100 Best Canadian Films – Seth Feldman

It was a good SCMS this year. In Toronto at the Sheraton there were hundreds of guests, panellists and academics, graduate students and senior professors, and the atmosphere was lively and congenial. There were some great panels on Canadian cinema, both by Canadians and Americans, along with stimulating ones on topics that synthetized the last year of scholarship, and which most likely will influence research to come. There was also socializing and events, where I got to chat with folks about this 100 Best Canadian Films project, and who were receptive towards it.
The first of these academics to have completed the request is my old documentary cinema professor Seth Feldman from my time at York University when I did my Masters there. Feldman is noteworthy in the Canadian film scholarship landscape for his academic practice at York University and his research on Canadian cinema and documentary. This includes a book on Allan King and a plethora of contributions to a myriad of anthologies on Canadian cinema and documentary, along with being a regular presence at conferences on these topics. Thanks again Seth!

Seth Feldman’s 100 Best Canadian Films

1. Back to God’s Country (David Hartford, Neil Shipman, 1919)
2. Carry On, Sergeant! (Bruce Bairnsfather, 1928)
3. Rhapsody in Two Languages (Gordon Sparling, 1934)
4. The Viking (George Melford, Varick Frissell, 1931)
5. Tit-Coq (René Delacroix, Gratien Gélinas, 1952)
6. Lest We Forget (Frank Badgley, 1935)

NFB (1939-1959)
1. Churchill’s Island (Stuart Legg, 1941)
2. The War for Men’s Minds (Stuart Legg, 1943)
3. Alexis Tremblay Habitant (Jane Marsh, 1943)
4. The Loon’s Necklace (F. R. Crawley, 1948)
5. Neighbours (Norman McLaren, 1952)
6. Corral (Colin Low, 1954)
7. City of Gold (Colin Low, Wolf Koenig, 1957)
8. Skid Row (Allan King, 1956)
9. Begone Dull Care (Norman McLaren, Evelyn Lambart, 1949)
10. The Days Before Christmas (Wolf Koenig, Terence Macartney-Filgate, Stanley Jackson, 1958)
11. Back Breaking Leaf (Terence Macartney-Filgate, 1959)
12. A Chairy Tale (Norman McLaren, Claude Jutra, 1957)
13. Les Raquetteurs (Michel Brault, Gilles Groulx, 1958)

1960s – 1970s
1. Glenn Gould: On the Record (Wolf Koenig, Roman Kroitor, 1959)
2. Universe (Colin Low, Roman Kroitor, 1960)
3. Lonely Boy (Wolf Koenig, Roman Kroitor, 1962)
4. Warrendale (Allan King, 1967)
5. The Things I Cannot Change (Tanya Ballantyne, 1967)
6. In the Labyrinth (Roman Kroitor, Colin Low, Hugh O'Connor, 1967)
7. La Lutte (Michel Brault, Claude Jutra, Marcel Carrière, Claude Fournier, 1961)
8. À Saint-Henri le cinq septembre (Hubert Aquin, 1962)
9. Pour la suite du monde (Pierre Perrault, Michel Brault, Marcel Carrière, 1963)
10. À tout prendre (Claude Jutra, 1963)
11. The Cat in the Bag (Gilles Groulx, 1964)
12. Very Nice, Very Nice (Arthur Lipsett, 1961)
13. Wavelength (Michael Snow, 1967)
14. Reason Over Passion (Joyce Wieland, 1969)
15. The Hart of  London (Jack Chambers, 1970)
16. La Région Centrale (Michael Snow, 1971)
17. The Far Shore (Joyce Wieland, 1976)
18. Tiger Child (Donald Brittain, 1970)
19. The Mills of the Gods (Beryl Fox, 1965)
20. Waiting for Fidel (Michael Rubbo, 1974)
21. La vie heureuse de Léopold Z (Gilles Carle, 1965)
22. The Death of a Lumberjack (Gilles Carle, 1973)
23. Les Ordres (Michel Brault, 1974)
24. Nobody Waved Good-bye (Don Owen, 1964)
25. Goin’ Down the Road (Donald Shebib, 1970)
26. Mon Oncle Antoine (Claude Jutra, 1971)
27. Paperback Hero (Peter Pearson, 1973)
28. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (Ted Kotcheff, 1974)
29. The Old Country Where Rimbaud Died (Jean Pierre Lefebvre, 1977)

1980s – 1990s
1. The Grey Fox (Phillip Borsos, 1982)
2. Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983)
3. The Wars (Robin Phillips, 1983)
4. Margaret Atwood: Once in August (Michael Rubbo, 1984)
5. Moose Jaw (Rick Hancox, 1992)
6. Canada’s Sweetheart (Donald Brittain, 1985)
7. My American Cousin (Sandy Wilson, 1985)
8. Decline of the American Empire (Denys Arcand, 1986)
9. Night Zoo (Jean-Claude Lauzon, 1987)
10. A Winter Tan (Jackie Burroughs, John Walker, John Frizzell, Louise Clark, Aerlyn Weissman, 1987)
11. Bye Bye Blues (Anne Wheeler, 1989)
12. The Company of Strangers (Cynthia Scott, 1990)
13. Black Robe (Bruce Beresford, 1991)
14. Naked Lunch (David Cronenberg, 1991)
15. Canal (Richard Kerr, 1981)
16. Illuminated Texts (R. Bruce Elder, 1982)
17. Lamentations (R. Bruce Elder, 1985)
18. ?O, Zoo! (Philip Hoffman, 1986)
19. Forbidden Love (Lynne Fernie, Aerlyn Weissman, 1992)
20. Kanehsatake (Alanis Obomsawin, 1993)
21. Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (François Girard, 1993)
22. Le Confessional (Robert Lepage, 1995)
23. Rude (Clement Virgo, 1995)
24. A Place Called Chiapas (Nettie Wild, 1998)
25. Last Night (Don McKellar, 1998)

1. A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005)
2. What These Ashes Wanted (Philip Hoffman, 2001)
3. Ararat (Atom Egoyan, 2002)
4. Le Confessional (Robert Lepage, 1995)
5. Ataranjuat: The Fast Runner (Zacharias Kunuk, 2002)
6. From the Journals of Knut Rasmussen (Zacharias Kunuk, Norman Cohn, 2006)
7. Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, 2000)
8. The Heart of the World (Guy Maddin, 2000)
9. Waydowntown (Gary Burns, 2000)
10. Manufactured Landscapes (Jennifer Baichwal, 2006)
11. The Barbarian Invasions (Denys Arcand, 2003)
12. Beowulf and Grendel (Sturla Gunnarsson, 2005)
13. C.R.A.Z.Y. (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2005)
14. Fire (Deepa Mehta, 1996)
15. Water (Deepa Mehta, 2005)
16. The Trotsky (Jacob Tierney, 2009)
17. Maelström (Denis Villeneuve, 2000)
18. My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007)
19. Away From Her (Sarah Polley, 2006)

2010 –
1. Angry Inuk (Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, 2016)
2. Bear 71 (Jeremy Mendes, Leanne Allison, 2012)
3. High Rise (Katerina Cizek, 2009-2015)
4. Tom at the Farm (Xavier Dolan, 2013)
5. Mommy (Xavier Dolan, 2014)
6. Monsieur Lazhar (Philippe Falardeau, 2011)
7. Take This Waltz (Sarah Polley, 2011)
8. Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Toronto Film Review Presents : That DMX Feeling

“Of all the recent American films that were set in Las Vegas, Showgirls was the only one that was real – take my word for it. I who have never set foot in the place!” - Jacques Rivette 

A story recently broke that the city of Vancouver now defines “affordable” rent as $1,750 and $2,505 per month for a one and two bedroom apartment respectively. For a city with a population of well under a million people, one gets the sense that living there must be an experience of extreme alienation, at least for those belonging to a less than affluent background. Would it not seem that the city is not outwardly pushing you out if you’re not a condo-residing hotshot? 

Though forgive this writer for making any big claims about Vancouver, as he’ll admit he hasn’t visited since he was a young child. Yet the three films being shown as part of the latest screening in the Toronto Film Review Presents, Neil Bahadur’s From Nine to Nine, Sophy Romvari’s It’s Him and Heather McDonald’s ReZoning Love, paint a vivid picture for anyone who’s never even been. 

Forming somewhat of a collective, the three millennial directors dramatize one of the most filmed yet not depicted (well with the exception of maybe um, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever) cities in the last thirty years of cinema, and put it through the lens of youth escaping trauma, or rather the painful everyday experience of living paycheque to paycheque. As taking us through fried food joints, movie theatres, parks, libraries, sketchy audition rooms, malls and euphorically in Bahadur’s film, “da club”, we get a sense of the lives lived by a greater portion of the 647,540 who call Van home than we’d care to think. - Ethan Vestby