Monday, December 28, 2009

Celebrating Altruism

A Christmas Carol (Robert Zemeckis, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)

(SilverCity Gloucester, 2385 City Park Drive)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

See You January

January Listings

Bytowne Cinema
Swimming Pool (François Ozon, 2003) 11/01 & 12/01.
The Killer (John Woo, 1989) 27/01 - 28/01.
Red Cliff (John Woo, 2008) 29/01 - 2/02.

The Mayfair Theatre
Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939) 9/01 - 11/01.
Battleship Potempkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925) 15/01.
Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2008) 15/01 - 17/01, 20/01 & 21/01.
The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans (Werner Herzog, 2009) 28/01 & 29/01.
The Shaolin Temple (Xinyan Zhang, 1982) 29/01.
Piranha Part Two: The Spawning (James Cameron, 1981) 30/01.

Saturday Night Sinema: Cannibalism Cult

Man from Deep River (Umberto Lenzi, 1972)
*** (A Must-See)

(The Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street, 26/12)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Industrial Militarist Indignant

Avatar (James Cameron, 2009)
** (Worth Seeing)

In James Cameron's Avatar there is the presentation of a utopian traditional culture deeply rooted in nature, and because of globalization and militarism through the humans attempt to exploit the land for a valuable resource, the tranquility of the land and its residents will be wounded. An important driving force of the film is the protagonist Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) physical disability. Due to a military battle wound he is now a para-pelagic. This not only presents Jakes motivation to have a avatar-clone but provides the context of personal tolls in large-scale conflict and it bring up class differences as Jakes social and financial position prevents him from getting the operation that could restore his legs.

This is a really interesting hybrid film due to its layering of analog and media, use of performance capture technology, and being in 3-D. I was entertained watching Avatar, its visual flairs such as the aweinspiring alien world and the sensational climax à la Titanic crash were terrific but the film is severely devalued by its banal narrative with repeated clichés and predictability.-David Davidson

(SilverCity Gloucester, 2385 City Park Drive)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Orson's Mercury Theatre Production

Me and Orson Welles (Richard Linklater, 2008)
**** (Masterpiece)

(World Exchange Plaza, Empire 7 Cinema, 111 Albert Street)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Recommended Reading: 2009 Canada Survey (and my 10 best films of 2009 list)

Overview of this years Canadian Cinema
By David Davidson

International Film Guide 2009: The Definitive Annual Review of World Cinema
Edited by Ian Haydn Smith
Wallflower Press, 2009

I was late to pick up the International Film Guide 2009 which came out in March. The IFG is a high standard publication that overviews almost every film-producing country. The Canadian survey by the expert local correspondent, Tom McSorley, showcases both populist and esoteric films while missing a few targets. However, I am still at odds with what exactly this is an overview of. If it is an overview of Canadian films released in 2009, wouldn’t the publication early in the year prevent the writer from knowing what exactly is going to be released? If it is an overview of Canadian films released in 2008, how come these films, if released at all, only got a distribution this year?

To define Canadian film and Canadian cinema I am including the following personal definitions. A Canadian film is: "a film whose creative vision (e.g. director, scriptwriter) is dictated by a long-term Canadian resident." The Canadian-ness is relative to its presentation of a Canadian citizen experience at a particular time on our fine Canadian soil. Canadian Cinema – this is geography specific – are Canadian films that are projected on local screens with a regular audience. If I cannot see the film, I would not classify it in the Canadian film canon. Canadian cinema living in Ottawa, Ontario – the capital city of Canada – is defined by the projections at the Bytowne Cinema, the Mayfair Theatre, the Library and Achieves Canada, or the Empire 7. Gatineau 9, which plays French dubbed or subtitled Hollywood films, elliptically receives French-Canadian films that do not get screened at the other film theatres (e.g. J'ai Tué Ma Mère). An adventurous cinéphile can always go to Montreal or Toronto to see films that do not get a local distribution. As well there is the second-rate video substitute, if that is even available.

The IFG Canadian survey brings up many familiar mainstream films and some non-distributed films while lacking a few noteworthy Canadian films and institutions. There is no mention of Xavier Dolan’s J'ai Tué Ma Mère which was a huge commercial and critical success at the Cannes film festival and in the province of Québec. The most important Ottawa Filmmaker Lee Gordon Demarbre in this year alone released two films Smash Cut and Summer’s Blood. Finally there is no mention of Canadian film festivals (e.g. Nouveau Cinema, Fantasia, TIFF) as being great showcases for the many independently financed Canadian films. These exclusions are only a few squabbles in what is a condensed overview in an exhaustive guide to world cinema.


This year has been my first entire year of film reviewing and documenting. Last year in May, I started Ottawa Film Review. My writing from 2008 was a trial run for the structure and writing that I would produce this year. Realizing the hegemony of Hollywood movies on our culture – much thanks to the writing of film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum – my affinities this year was a reaction against the mainstream which led towards a discovery of more personal and rich films.

The first four films on my list; Skidlove, Trees of Syntax, Leaves of Axis, Smash Cut, and Adoration, are by Canadian filmmakers. This shift towards independent Canadian films emphasize being more attuned to the works of local filmmakers. This summer I was even captured on Super 8 celluloid in my friend Scott Birdwise submission in the IFCO Dogme 95 challenge. But not all Canadian films are worth promoting. The Necessities of Life and One Week, two heavily advertised “good” Canadian films, were entirely forgettable. I have yet to seen J'ai Tué Ma Mère, but I think if I had, it would have been included on my list. A non-contender is Guy Maddin’s National Film Board commercials Night Mayor, which are terrific surreal period explorations of the start of the NFB, as well I still anticipate maybe one day seeing his short Send Her to the Electric Chair which screened at the Rotterdam film festival.

Two Lovers and A Serious Man, are terrific films which mean a lot to me as I can identify with their Jewish protagonist and how they relate to the world and history.

I thought Waltz with Bashir was the best national film that came out this year. Other notable contenders include Youssef Chahine’s final film Le Chaos, Jacques Audiard’s Un Prophète, and Laurent Cantet’s Entre les Murs, and Ramin Bahrani's Goodbye Solo.

The Limits of Control is, for me, the best recession film with its concern of alternative lifestyles and preoccupations to counter balance the dominating capitalist worldview held in the United States. Other important recession films include Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story and Kelly Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy.

Tetro is Francis Ford Coppola latest film and the filmmaking is revelatory. Other exciting films include Spike Jonze’s furry Where the Wild Things Are, Wes Anderson’s stop motion Fantastic Mr. Fox, Werner Herzog's head trip The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans, Judd Apatow's personal Funny People, and Chan-wook Park’s maniac Thirst.

The final spot on my list goes to Frank Cole’s Life Without Death which screening and book launch, Life without Death: The Cinema of Frank Cole, was organized by the Canadian Film Institute. The film changed my perception on Canadian film history and personal filmmaking. This might not have been a 2009 release but the reason for its inclusion is that I rather incorporate Frank Cole's work then this years Frank Cole documentary The Man Who Crossed the Sahara.

Finally I have to add that the most important cinema related event in Ottawa was the reopening of the Mayfair Theatre last January. It is such a pleasure to see programming that express a passion and love for movies anew every month. With eclectic taste and original showtimes the Mayfair Theatre redefined cinema experiences in this town.-David Davidson

The Ten Best Films of 2009 (in no particular order)
1. Skidlove (Ryan Arnold, 2009)
2. Trees of Syntax, Leaves of Axis (Daïchi Saïto, 2009)
3. Smash Cut (Lee Demarbre, 2009)
4. Adoration (Atom Egoyan, 2008)
5. Two Lovers (James Gray, 2008)
6. A Serious Man (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2009)
7. Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008)
8. The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch, 2009)
9. Tetro (Francis Ford Coppola, 2009)
10. Life Without Death (Frank Cole, 2000)

Inherent Vice

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans (Werner Herzog, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)

Werner Herzog is really doing something interesting in The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans. This iguana-child film is somewhere between dream-like and high off of too much coke. The shift from realism to stylishness, heady camera movements, drug infused episodes (which are elliptic and brief, like the 15 minute euphoria you would get from doing cocaine), and with the blundering protagonist contribute to a dazed-like feeling. As well, Nicolas Cage camp performance provokes laughter and giddiness which is an element of being stoned after smoking marijuana.-David Davidson

(Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street, 4/12 - 10/12)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Leering at Decadence

The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)
**** (Masterpiece)

(Cinéma du Parc, 3575 Parc Avenue, Montreal, PQ)