Manakamana: A Film Unseen

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The year 2014 brings yet another twelve months of hyperbolic, and over stimulated cinematic spectacle. Following a year of Superhero re-hashes (Man of Steel), comic book adaptations (Kick-Ass 2, The Wolverine), darker themed sequels (Thor: The Dark World, Star Trek: Into Darkness) and over indulgent science fiction (After Earth, Pacific Rim), it seems Hollywood has lined up another round of expensive eye-candy. I recently had the pleasure of watching The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug at the cinema, although I firmly place this film in the same category of over produced films listed above, its fantastical charm was difficult to ignore.

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Frozen: The Snow Queen Touched by the Hand of a Disney Princess

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In Disney’s Frozen, the audience is introduced to a world that wields both the darkness of Hans Christian Andersen and the almost ‘unbearable lightness’ of the Disney Princess world, where characters spontaneously burst into song, though thankfully, they possess voices such as that of the inimitable Idina Menzel, the voice of the Snow Queen. The film is at once a feminist manifesto (i.e. sisterly love comes before romantic love) and a deeply romantic story, espousing the value of slow-growing sentiment based on truly knowing, understanding and complementing one’s other half, rather than on the typical Disney princess ‘love at first sight’ scenario. READ MORE.

John Carpenter’s Prophetic Visions of the American Police State

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John Carpenter’s films, known primarily for their horror themes, inevitably feature pulse-pounding soundtracks, slow-moving camera work and hair-raising jolts to the nervous system as evil pops into the foreground with unexpected intensity. However, while Carpenter’s films are also infused with a strong anti-authoritarian, laconic bent, those seeking a good scare tend to overlook the deeper, overarching themes that speak to the filmmaker’s concerns about the unraveling of our society, particularly our government. READ MORE.

Artifacts of Idealism: A Review

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In Artifacts of Idealism, director Sean Corbett paints a picture of idealized, obsessive love against the backdrop of Montreal’s Occupy movement. Simon Pelletier gets to show off his acting chops as the young Private Eye Charles who is recruited for a peculiar task by Robert, an eccentric older gentleman played by Nesvadba. Robert has fallen in love with an image of a young woman (Marshall) he saw at an art gallery and becomes determined to track her down, wondering if she is as perfect as her aesthetics suggest. Charles eventually meets the real life Marilee (after a particularly humorous run-in with the Quebecoise owner of the art gallery who tries to introduce him to “pleasures of life”), whom he finds even more enigmatic than her portrait. READ MORE.

We Shall Overcome? The Problem of Self Infatuation in Western Ideology and Conflict Resolution

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Wildly popular in modern culture, the medium of film operates as a pseudo canvas upon which current and historical social issues can be portrayed, then discussed, via cinematic narratives. In recent times, the topic of immigration and ‘the foreigner’ have been addressed frequently. Given the global culture which exists today, the question of the “other” is an important matter, with very real ramifications. The “other” or ‘the foreigner,’ seeking a sense of home in an adopted land, is faced with a myriad of struggles and prejudices. Many films carefully scrutinize this issue, hoping to assess the inhibitions and stereotypes which we, as a global society, must overcome in order to universalize ourselves and bring an end to the mistreatment of the theoretical “other.”

Reality is Indifferent as to Whether or Not We Believe: The Ethics of Found Footage

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Chronicling the tragic death of self proclaimed ecologist Timothy Treadwell, Werner Herzog’s documentary film Grizzly Man draws upon over one hundred hours of video footage shot by Treadwell himself. Having devoted more than the latter decade of his life to studying wild grizzly bears in their native Alaskan habitat, the circumstances surrounding Treadwell’s death by bear attack were, at once, both ironic and sobering. As Bill Nichols, in his essay Telling Stories with Evidence, states: all documentaries are, to a given extent, fictional. The truth in this pronouncement stems from the fact that filmmakers typically function as voices of authority and as narrators, and thus documentaries are fictional in the rather unique sense that the documentary brings to light a specific version (i.e. the filmmaker’s) of the real world…

Western Flicks and the Academy Awards: The Values We Live and Die By

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As long as there are movies, there will be Westerns. A love letter to a time in America when heroes loomed large and men (and women) lived and died by a strict code of ethics, the Western genre never seems to wear out its welcome, re-appearing in the box office in one form or another every few years. Sometimes it’s a remake of a classic, as was the case with the Coen brothers’ 2010 nod to True Grit. Sometimes it’s a comic send-up to the best of the Wild West, as offered up by Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles or the animated Rango. And then there are the movies that disguise themselves as sci-fi or horror but are Westerns at heart, such as the Star Wars epics and many of the films of John Carpenter, an avowed fan of the Western whose influence can be seen in everything from his The Thing to Vampires.

Reimagining Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) was the highly criticised, and often ignored, Science Fiction film that initiated a new chapter in the Star Trek franchise. It is renowned for its dull and plodding narrative, and for stripping the verve and vigour out of its long serving characters. Despite the fact that two years previous, Star Wars (1977) had made space an exciting and adventurous place to roam, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was literally a galaxy far, far away from the swashbuckling heroics of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, and their attempts to bring down the evil intergalactic Empire.

It wasn’t always like this.

Peering Through Another Lens: 5 Broken Cameras

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We have grown accustomed to documenting the world around us through a multitude of lenses. From birthdays, to marriages, to pet antics and cuisine masterpiece, we have taken to recording almost every aspect of our daily lives. It would seem that nothing is safe from the ubiquitous camera lens. The winner of the World Cinema Directing Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, 5 Broken Cameras explores what happens when an initial desire to film family moments turns into something more for Emad Burnat, a villager in the small farming town of Bil’in in the West Bank. Directed by Burnat and Guy Davidi, 5 Broken Cameras spans the course of five years as seen through five cameras, each of which is eventually smashed, shot, or otherwise broken.

Horror’s Next Step

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I understand I am late to the game in voicing my opinions about The Cabin in the Woods. The movie has already been picked apart by seemingly all forms of essayistic expression by fanatics and haters alike, or been subjected to the looping rhetoric of reviewers who wish to talk without ever really saying anything. For me, a die-hard horrorphile, someone who truly believes horror cinema is among the most difficult of all artistic expression, this movie required a cool-down period, a releasing of the steam coming out of my ears, before I could allow myself to write one word about it. Cabin was released April 13, 2012 (a Friday), almost exactly 29 years after the first Evil Dead movie. In Evil Dead, five college-aged friends travel to a mysterious cabin in the middle of unpopulated woods, and unknowingly release an evil entity. The movie changed the genre, and arguably the Hollywood big-budget business model for profitable filmmaking. As 28 Days Later was followed by Shaun of the Dead, as Scream was followed by Scary Movie, so too has the teenagers-in-the-woods plotline reached the point of parody.