Wednesday, September 17, 2008

DC Shorts: Showcase 3

So what is this one about?
Well, this is impossible to explain, because it was actually 13 short films. The list of the films can be found here. DC Shorts, in general, is a film festival of 102 short films made by filmmakers from all over the world. The films were split into 8 different showcases. After each showcase the audience would have an opportunity to vote on their favorite film. My friend Steven was part of the production of the film that won the audience award for the showcase. The film is called Speed Dating, and was hilarious...and it isn't just because he is my friend.

And how much did I pay to watch?
It was $13 for the showcase. And was totally worth it!

And what did I think?
I guess this is the hard part. With 13 entirely different films I can't really speak to all of them. There were amazingly amazing films, and there were films I didn't like. Each audience member had three votes for audience favorite and I voted for Speed Dating (twice) and D. Mark: Hip Hop Artist, which was a hysterically awesome German film. Man, those Germans! (seriously, go to that link, it is hilarious). There were two french films, Diva and La Tangente, both of which were so beautiful and sort of heartbreaking. There was an Aussie film, Selling Hopkins, which was mildly creepy but awesome because of the excellent accents.

There were two DC films, one of which was made during the 48 hour film festival, and one that was a documentary about bar darts. That just showed that you really can make a documentary about anything. That gives me hope for my future.

The British films were all sort of eh. I had very strong negative feelings about English Language (with English Subtitles) but it seemed like the audience was really yucking it up. I thought it was one of these films that was trying too hard to be "arty". Grandma's Funeral was the opening film for our showcase, and it was good enough. Very touching and I thought the actresses were very real.

Hollywood Jerome
was a US film and it was weird weird weird. Not in a good way. I did not care for it at all. The US film, besides Speed Dating, that I thought was excellent was Shop and Save. It was flipping hilarious. How did the film maker think of that?? And then, Check Please, that was another one. How did the film maker thing of THAT?! My friend Mel, who I went with, who never goes to movies, actually thought it was really funny. So how do you like that?

And thats pretty much all of them. I left one out. I didn't care much for it either, but I did like that it was only three minutes long. You gotta give a film maker credit for being so concise.

Overall the entire experience was awesome. The final showcases, that have the winning films are going to be shown on Thursday at E Street. If you are in DC, I would suggest you go see them.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
I give the whole showcase a 9. I give the film festival in general, a 10.

Despite my living in Toronto, you know, the city that has one of the biggest film festivals in North America, I haven't been to many/any festivals. DC Shorts shows me that I will go to the same festival if I am still here next year.

A shorts festival is almost better than TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) because with shorts if you don't like the one you're watching, the good news is there will be another one in a few minutes!

A Tale of Two Sisters

So what is this one about?
My beloved Netflix tells us,
Terrified sisters try to exorcise their home of two dark forces -- their evil stepmother and a vengeful entity -- in this ghostly tale. Hospitalized after their mother's death, young Su-mi (Im Su-jeong) and Su-yeon (Mun Geun-yeong) return home to find a nasty new stepmother (Yeom Jeong-ah). The girls suffer terrifying events, but their father doesn't care, even though evil lurks around every corner. Can the girls free their home from its demons?
That made me want to see it.

And how much did I pay to watch?
Got it on Netflix. As you can tell by my paltry movie updating I haven't been watching much this month. I am averaging $1.21 per movie, because I have been watching a lot of tv. (Actually, I've also gotten one Russian movie that was unwatchable because it was dubbed in English, and some dvds for my mom....)

And what did I think?
Well, that tricky description made me think this movie would be cool. However, it was not. It was actually one of the most unimpressive movies I have seen.

It was hard to keep track of what was going on because the actress who played the mother and the actress who played the step-mother looked soo similar!! Their hair style what was helped me tell them apart. But then at the end the hair changed and I didn't know what was going on! AHHH.

And, I mean, what was the point? A lot of Asian movies like to build up a lot of atmosphere and foreboding, and then they scare the ever loving jesus out of you because they are so twisted and scary...I mean, what the hell are these movie makers thinking?! How do they come up with this twisted shit?! Well, this one built up a lot of tension--there was a point where I had to look away because I was scurred (which like, NEVER HAPPENS)--but then nothing really scary happened. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Dullsville!!!

Apparently, according to wikipedia, this is the highest grossing Korean horror film ever. And it is a pyschological horror film. Um, yeah riiiiiiiiiiight.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Honestly, this movie was a total waste. It wasn't scary, it was hard to decipher, and it was just lame lame lame. Don't bother watching it.

This movie gets a 2.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


So what is this one about?
Once again Netflix helps me with the description. They say,
This creepy supernatural thriller from director Alexandre Aja stars Kiefer Sutherland as troubled security guard Ben Carson, who discovers malevolent spirits living within the mirrors of a fire-ravaged department store. When their murderous nature comes to light, Ben turns to his estranged wife (Paula Patton) to help him save their family -- and himself. The supporting cast includes Amy Smart and Jason Flemyng.
So, there you go.

And how much did I pay to watch?
It cost $10.25. I made a mental note to remember how much it cost, since I seem to forget how much every movie I see in the theatre costs. Whoops.

And what did I think?
Well, I guess I am a sucker for horror movies. Most previews that look even somewhat scary I will see. Now, I may not see them in the theatre, but I will see them sometime (like Prom Night, the Strangers, Wind Chill, etc). I saw this one in the theatre because I was sick of being at home bored out of my mind all the time. (Which I suppose happens when you don't have a job or any prospects...)

So anyway, this was better and worse than I thought it would be. Worse because it was kind of confusing, but better because it seemed well thought out and thorough, like it wasn't just some shit that a 21 year old slapped together.

I was never really scared, and I can't remember that there was much build up of suspense--in fact, now that I think about it I think the preview may have been scarier than the actual movie--but some of the scenes with the killings were awesome! So I've got to give those credit.

I've also got to give lots of credit to the filmmakers for the end of the movie. I liked the ending. Kudos on not making it a perfectly happy ending. In fact, it wasn't really that happy at all, and as we all know, I love it when that happens.

Lastly, the acting was pretty good, and the actors were good. Amy Smart and, of course, Kiefer Sutherland were in it. Also, Jen's grandmother from Dawson's Creek was in it. AWESOME!

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
Well, it was fine. Entertaining enough, the sets were pretty, the deaths were awesome, and the movie wasn't completely brain dead. For a modern horror movie I feel like this is all I could hope to expect.

It was definitely average, but I will give it a 6, because it was better than I expected.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Man Who Laughs (1928)

So what is this one about?
Netflix tells us,
In this classic horror film based on a novel by Victor Hugo, Gwynplaine (Conrad Veidt), the son of an aristocrat, is kidnapped for political reasons and then disfigured by a gypsy surgeon, who leaves the boy's face paralyzed in a contorted smile. He finds refuge in a traveling theatre troupe, but his lineage is eventually discovered, and he soon finds himself being pulled back into the social and political world he was taken from as a boy.

And how much did I pay to watch?
I am still averaging $1.54 per movie this month.

And what did I think?
I have only seen a few silent films in my film watching lifetime. Frankly, they are a bit tedious, but they are always incredibly interesting if only as a way of clarifying my understanding of the history of film.

This movie is sort of reminiscent of The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1920) because, as one person on netflix put it, "this is straight up German Impressionist." However, because I have not seen enough silent movies I can't say that all silent movies aren't like this. Because the ones I've seen are all like this...even the ones made in the current day (TCoDC (2005) and Trapped by the Mormons (2005) hmm, maybe 2005 was the year of the 1920s silent film remakes...). I guess I just prefer German expressionist movies, so I should (and did) add other types of silent films to my queue, including Russian ones (yay!).

Interestingly enough, the actor who played Gwynplaine (aka: the laughing man) was Conrad Veidt. Veidt also played Cesare in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), which is something I did not know before I watched the movie.

I wondered throughout how they got his mouth to look that way.
turns out, as the ever faithful internet movie data base tells me,
Gwynplaine's grotesque grin was achieved with prosthesis. Conrad Veidt was fitted with a set of dentures that had metal hooks to pull back the corners of his mouth. The only scene in which he did not wear the prosthesis is the scene where he is ravished by the Duchess Josiana.
They then go on to tell me something I already knew, but those of your reading this may not,
Gwynplaine's fixed grin and disturbing clown-like appearance was a key inspiration for comic book talents 'Bob Kane (I)' and Jerry Robinson in creating Batman's greatest enemy, The Joker.
oh ho ho ho ho. In fact, when I heard about this on NPR that is what made me queue the film, because I was curious to see the evolution of the Joker character.

Something else I didn't know about this film was that it was based on a book by Victor Hugo. Now, Hugo wrote one of my favorite books ever, Les Miserables, which was the inspiration for one of my favorite musicals.

Now, because this is a Victor Hugo story there was part of me that wanted the ending to be devastating...Like if Dea died before she knew Gwynplaine was alive. But you know me, thats the tragic romantic in me. ACTUALLY, upon watching the extra features (which I almost always do, when I like the movie) I learned that Hugo had written a different ending than the one in the film. Hugo's ending had Dea being so happy that Gwynplaine was alive that she actually died. I guess it was death by stress of having so much happen in such a short period of time. Gwynplaine was so crushed that she died that he walked off the deck of the ship into the ocean and drowned. Now THAT is a proper Hugo ending!

I guess none of that stuff tells you what I thought about the movie though, does it? It was more just some stuff I found interesting. Well, what did I think? I thought it was pretty cool. It was really dark but it wasn't a horror movie at all. It really did feel like a Hugo story. I thought the acting was excellent. I think silent movies, or at least my understanding of them, could easily be cheesy. But even though the use of dialogue on the black screen was infrequent I feel like the story was very easy to understand. In fact, I think the sparing use of the dialogue sort of allowed the audience to make up what they think the characters were saying to each other. Sometimes you could read their lips, but it is also fun to make that stuff up.

Additionally, both Conrad Veidt and Mary Philbin, Gwynplaine and Dea respectively, were wildly good looking. And I know it is shallow, but that really made you feel for these two basically pitiful characters, Gwynplaine had that hideous smile (which actually wasn't so bad) and Dea was blind.

Overall, I thought the movie was pretty awesome. It made me queue about 20 more silent classic films. So if the next few movies are silent ones, you'll have to bear with me. Or rather, maybe you should watch some of them too. They are really quite interesting.

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
When it comes time to give a rating I often have to think hard. What am I rating on after all? Whether or not I liked the movie is often less important to me that how good the movie is overall. Granted sometimes I like things, I give things 10, that aren't on the same level as movies that I rate 10 that are really extraordinary films. Like Downfall and Love Actually aren't comparable. So it makes it tough.

Then again, how am I supposed to compare a movie from 1928 to a movie made in 2008? They are completely different. It is bizarre.

I liked that this movie was dark. I chalk that up to German expressionism. I thought the characters were very sympathetic to the audience. I loved them, and yet twistedly still wanted death to befall them--though I think wanting death and heartbreak to happen to them is different than wanting bad things to happen to them...right? I thought for a movie from its time it was quite nice visually and technically. (Except when the dog bit one of the characters and it was clearly a stuffed dog the man was holding...). So why can't I rate this movie a 10?

I dunno, because it wasn't one of the most astounding film achievements I have seen. I loved watching it, but it just wasn't perfect. So, I will say that it was excellent, not perfect, but certainly good. So, I'm gonna rate it an 8.5.