Photo by Brendan Lynch, used under Creative Commons license

“Life has a gap in it… It just does. You don’t go crazy trying to fill it.”

After the unpleasant taste The Master left in our mouths, it was nice to move on to a wonderful piece of work like Take This Waltz (imdb | rotten tomatoes). Sarah Polley really needs to direct more…we could do with films such as this and Away From Her more often than every five years.

Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby were all good, but the real surprise was Sarah Silverman. It was a small part, but damn, it was a great one and she nailed it. The other star of the film: Toronto. I’ve never wanted to live in the city I live in so much as when I watched this film. It even makes me want to visit hipsterville Queen West.

See it.

.:.

Photo by Brendan Lynch, used under Creative Commons license

Photo by mrmanc, used under creative commons license

“He’s making all of this up as he goes along. You don’t see that?”

While The Master (imdb | rotten tomatoes) featured some of the best acting performances I’ve ever seen, I don’t think I could ever recommend it to anyone. It was…bizarre. Not nearly as good as the original teaser had made me hope. It was interesting (to me, anyway; Nellie began counting lightbulbs in the theatre) as a somewhat critical comparison to Scientology, but drifted badly in the last twenty minutes or so. It certainly looked amazing, in 70mm on the Lightbox screen.

We had dinner after at Luma, right there on the same floor of the Lightbox. It was…fine. Not great. Not bad either, though we did make the mistake of booking dinner during Winterlicious, so the restaurant was somewhat more frantic than usual.

.:.

Photo by mrmanc, used under creative commons license

Photo by Sajjad Ali Qureshi, used under Creative Commons license

“I’m the motherfucker who found this place, sir.”

I was excited to see Zero Dark Thirty (imdb | rotten tomatoes) today, but also a little nervous. I was worried that it would be like The Hurt Locker — heaped with critical acclaim that I didn’t quite share*. I also worried that it would be too jingoistic, given the subject matter.

But nope: my fears were allayed. I thought it was really good, a nine-year procedural that somehow maintained pacing and suspense in spite of the audience knowing the full outcome. It was stark, which made it raw and helped it avoid any of the myriad traps it might have fallen into in the hands of another director.

As for the controversy that’s sprung up around the film’s depicted use of torture, I’m not sure I understand the criticism. Everyone knows the CIA and American military were using torture as a method of extracting information in the years following 9/11. The film depicted this, but didn’t seem to glorify it — some characters are clearly disturbed by it, at least at first, and the CIA operatives actually refer to it dispassionately as a potential political minefield. I’m not defending torture in any way, nor am I saying those people were right to be dispassionate, if in fact it happened that way. I’m saying that’s almost certainly what was happening, and would prefer the film has the guts to face up to that ugly truth rather than gloss over it. I didn’t even get the sense that the film was drawing a straight line between torture and the killing of Osama Bin Laden, though some are accusing it of such. More likely, they’re attacking the misinterpretation of the film by people like Congressman Peter King who’re making the case for more torture.

However, you can’t fault a film when politicians twist the story to fit their own narrative. All you can do is respect it for telling a long, ugly, problematic, grinding story without falling into Hollywood cliché.

* I didn’t like Hurt Locker when I saw it at TIFF. I really liked it the second time I watched it, but it’s faded a bit in my mind since.

.:.

Photo by Sajjad Ali Qureshi, used under Creative Commons license

Photo by twiddleblat, user under Creative Commons license

Finally.

The NHL is back. Finally.

This Saturday arenas will be filled with hockey games, including Montreal facing off against Toronto. Finally.

The Canadiens have ended the Scott Gomez experiment, as I (and every other Habs fan) had hoped. They’ll have to eat his salary, but at least it should no longer be a distraction. Finally.

The fans are ready.

The TV networks are ready.

The players probably aren’t ready but they’re certainly eager.

NHL hockey. Finally.

.:.

Photo by twiddleblat, user under Creative Commons license

Photo by zoe toseland, under under Creative Commons license

“Well, I know the Bible says Jesus turned water into wine, but it didn’t say liquor store wine.”

Yet more of the best of the 2012 films:

  • Bernie (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was more or less a true story, and probably the best work Jack Black has ever done. It’s full of East Texas quirk and humour and small-town whispering and, as it turns out, murder. Very entertaining.
  • It seemed difficult to understand how Skyfall (imdb | rotten tomatoes), a James Bond film, could score a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Granted, Casino Royale rated a 95%, but I think had more to do with genuine surprise at the success of the reboot with Daniel Craig as Bond. When Quantum Of Solace more or less sucked — or, rather, turned out to be a generic old Bond film — I think everyone assumed the party was over. But Skyfall impressed me by stitching together the best of the rebooted franchise (humanity and a feel of real physicality) with the best of the classic Bond themes, all while adeptly referencing the past films. I was quite pleased with it, as someone who both appreciates real film-making and who has a soft spot for classic Bond.
  • Over time The Invisible War (imdb | rotten tomatoes) will likely gain the label of “essential” documentary as a result of its social impact. At least, I hope it will.  It certainly deserves to, as it tries to reveal a crime that’s too often covered up: rape in the US military. Now, it’s not exactly a secret that rape occurs in the military, but what the documentary makers focus on — and what shocked me — was the absolute lack of action taken by a military hierarchy which admits the problem. So either those in charge are unable to fix the problem, or they’ve accepted that it’s a natural side effect of putting women and men in such close quarters. That sounds ridiculous, but it’s a view that was actually endorsed by a Fox News analyst this year. Be warned: this isn’t an easy documentary to watch, but it’s vital that everyone does.

.:.

Photo by zoe toseland, under under Creative Commons license

Photo by Tricia Wang 王圣捷, used under Creative Commons license

“I’m from the future. You should go to China.”

In a slightly-too-late mad dash to see 2012’s best films, we’ve been slashing and burning our way through the list of Rotten Tomatoes’ most praised of the year. In the last few days we’ve watched four films (in addition to The Loved Ones and The Angels’ Share):

  • Monsieur Lazhar (imdb | rotten tomatoes) came out quite a while ago — it was nominated for a 2012 Oscar — but we hadn’t seen it yet. That’s a shame — it was a beautiful film, even if the subject matter was tragic. My sister-in-law, and everyone I know who became a teacher, really should watch it.
  • Rian Johnson is on the list of directors I will always make time for, and such was the case with Looper (imdb | rotten tomatoes). In fact I was mad at myself for not seeing it in theatres. Johnson’s ability to blend two genres — sci-fi and western, in this case — is always fun to watch, and the film just looked incredible. All the leads were good, but I think I enjoyed the supporting parts of Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, and Garrett Dillahunt the most.
  • The Queen Of Versailles (imdb | rotten tomatoes) made me angry becausejesusfuckingchrist WHO NEEDS A NINETY GODDAMN THOUSAND FOOT MANSION ANYWAY??!?!!??!? Oy.
  • Compliance (imdb | rotten tomatoes) made me really tense and unsettled, even though I knew exactly what was going to happen. Little wonder it had audiences so riled at Sundance…I really wanted to yell at the screen. A lot. People who can’t separate actors from the characters they play are likely to throttle co-lead Ann Down if they ever meet her in person.

We still have to see Moonrise Kingdom, Bernie, Skyfall, Lincoln, Django Unchained, Life Of Pi (maybe; Nellie’s dubious), and documentaries like This Is Not a Film, The Invisible War, Chasing Ice, and The Central Park Five to feel like we’ve really covered the best of the year. Gotta get a move on!

.:.

Photo by Tricia Wang 王圣捷, used under Creative Commons license

“Bring the hammer, Daddy.”

Look here, man: we’re old. Too old for the usual New Year’s Eve shit…long lines, drunk people, bad menus, no taxis, all the rest. So we decided to finally put this big new kitchen to use, dip into the special corner of the wine rack, and get caught up on some 2012 movies.

That’s flank steak marinated in olive oil, balsamic, and rosemary with potatoes (roasted with sea salt and pink peppercorns) and sweet potatoes (roasted with chardonnay salt and white peppercorns). We had it with a Suckfizzle 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon that we brought back from Australia’s Margaret River region. Earlier we’d had shrimp and scallops and roasted corn with a Norman Hardie 2008 Cuvee L Chardonnay; later we had lemon and apple tarts with a Tawse 2009 Spark.

We also watched two movies I’d never heard of, but both of which were amongst the top-rated films of 2012.

The Angels’ Share (imdb | rotten tomatoes) followed the pattern of other Ken Loach movies, in that I could barely understand what the characters said half the time. Even so, it was a surprisingly enjoyable film…funny, feel-good but not overly precious.

Turns out The Loved Ones (imdb | rotten tomatoes) actually debuted at TIFF in 2009 — almost certainly in the Midnight Madness programme — but it didn’t come out in North America until 2012. It was good — maybe not 97% on Rotten Tomatoes good — but an entertaining little torture porn homage to Carrie and Pretty In Pink.

And thus did our 2012 end: with a crazy Australian chick trying to drill people to death.