Pick of the Day: George Ryga’s Hungry Hills

In our May 6 issue, Vanda Schmockel did an article on this revisionist Western directed by Regina’s Rob King which opens a four-night run at the RPL Theatre tonight at 9:15 p.m.

The use of the author’s name in the title, by the way, isn’t an affectation. It’s driven by circumstances.

Born in Alberta in 1922 of Ukrainian immigrant parents, Ryga died in 1987. He’s best-known for his 1967 play The Ecstasy of Rita Joe, and wrote  a novel called Hungry Hills in 1963. 

Both for legal purposes related to copyright, plus marketing reasons, it was almost a necessity for producers to add Ryga’s name to the title. Twenty years before Ryga published Hungry Hills British author Daphne du Maurier wrote a book called Hungry Hill that was later made into a big-budget Hollywood film.

It’s a romnace set in the Irish County of Cork (so named because it’s inhabitants were prolific producers of corks for wine bottles and what not, I wonder, or because they liked to get corked?) and follows the exploits of a family of Anglo-Irish landowners.

If you read Vanda’s article, you’ll learn that Ryga’s story has a rural family theme too. So copyright had to be a consideration. Plus, there’s an obvious  marketing upside. Imagine some poor woman trying to convince her boyfriend/huband to see Hungry Hills?

Many men, I suspect, would make the not unreasonable mistake of assuming they we’re being invited to see Hungry Hill and snort in reply “A movie based on some trifle that Daphne du Maurier wrote in 1943. Puhleaze honey!”

Musicwise tonight, the highlight is Hannah Georgas’ performance at O’Hanlon’s Pub with Colleen Brown and Dave Vertesi of Hey Ocean fame backing her up. Here’s a link to a preview James Brotheridge did in our May 6 issue. And if you’re curious about the video for “Thick Skin” that he talks about “here it is” (YouTube)

Pick of the Day: Grown Up Movie Star

If you check out the cut-line for the story Stephen LaRose did on this movie (which plays at the RPL tonight at 7 p.m.) in the print version of our April 22 issue (here’s a link to the on-line story) you’ll see it reads: AWARD-WINNING AND DISTURBING The old men on this paper are very uncomfortable with this image. 

I don’t feel that way myself. Yeah, the girl does look pretty young. In the movie, in fact, she’s 15 And she’s definitely going through a Lolita phase where she’s exploring her sexual power.

But I know the actress who plays her. And I know she’s not 15. She’s not even 20. In fact, she’s almost 25. That’s still young. But not indecently young to be exploring her sexuality. 

Having said that, I saw Grown Up Movie Star Friday night and parts of it definitely were  discomforting. As Tatiana described it in the article, “Ruby is lonely and looking for attention, and she’s not getting it from her dad, so she’s getting attention the only way she knows how.”

When a girl/woman does that, it’s never an easy thing to watch. Because Lord knows, there’s no shortage of boys/men out there eager to take advantage. Here’s the trailer (YouTube)

Midnight Movie Marathon

I do OK with working out, but an actual marathon would kill me.

Four movies in a row on a Friday? That’s a marathon I am far better suited for.

Rainbow Cinemas is having a midnight movie marathon this Friday for the MS Society. Starting at midnight, they’ll be showing four movies – When in Rome, She’s Out of My League, Green Zone, and Shutter Island.

Pledge sheets are available at the Rainbow Cinemas box office. You need at least $25 to get in. That gives you admission, unlimited popcorn and drinks, other food, and bragging rights.

They only have the space for 150 people, so the first people to enter their pledge forms will get in. So far, they’ve received one.

They expect the last movie to finish up by 8:30 a.m. On a side note, watching Shutter Island starting at 6:30 a.m. is kinda crazy. Any film as indebted to Vertigo as that one should normally be watched while fully awake.

Pick of the Day: Creation

I wonder if anyone’s shown up so far to picket this flick.? It concludes a four-day run at the RPL Theatre tonight with a 9 p.m. screening.

If not, will anyone show up tonight, I wonder? It is Sunday, after all. Sunday being the traditional day of rest and worship by Christians in emulation of God resting on the seventh day after labouring for six to create all existence. Us included. And all other life on Earth. Although under Christian belief we’re the only ones created in God’s image. Which makes us pretty special.

Yeah, we’re pretty heavily integrated into the web of life on Earth. And we look, act and behave similar to a whole pile of other animals. But we’re a step or two above them. Not Gods ourselves, admittedly. But made in His image. His children. And thus entitled to exercise dominion over all the beasts, fish and plants that God placed on Earth for our benefit.

Or not.

That was what Charles Darwin eventually concluded after several decades of intensive research into the biological origins of different species of animal life on Earth. In 1859 he published On the Origin of Species to immense scientific acclaim, and immense controversy in the large and influential Christian community.

Governed  by the principle of natural selection, which tends to preserve and promote any improvements in genetic fitness that species make, we humans hadn’t been created by God in His image. We’d evolved from a lower form of primate.

Now, personally, I think monkeys are kind of cool. Yeah, they don’t have our creature comforts. But they can do a lot of the same stuff we do. And they don’t have to constrain themselves with all the social codes and conventions that tie us down. If they want to take a crap, then pick up their poo and throw it at someone. they do. Us? No way. You’d be hauled off to jail for sure.

Still, going from God the Father to a chimp as the primogenitor of humanity was a leap a lot of people weren’t interested in making. Heck, there’s still millions out there who are fervent Creationists. It’s not a huge movement in Regina, not like it is in the American Bible Belt, but pockets of support exist. Pretty much anytime we run something poking fun at Creationist beliefs and advancing the scientific view on the origins of life we get an indignant letter to the editor or two.

So they’re out there. And some hardcores might decide to do a little muscle flexing like 200 or 300 did with their Stations of the Cross procession through  downtown Regina on Good Friday.

Starring Paul Bethany and Jennifer Connelly, Creation examines the inner turmoil Darwin experienced before deciding to publish his theory of evolution, and his relationship with his wife Emma. Here’s the trailer (YouTube)

Pick of the Day: The White Ribbon

I’m on a bit of a war-themed roll here so I might as well keep it up for one more day. Screening at the RPL Theatre at 9 p.m. is this German language film (with English subtitles) by Michael Haneke. Shot in black-and-white, The White Ribbon is set in a German village on the eve of WWI, and looks at the children who managed to survive that conflagration and later grew up to be the generation that permitted, and even welcomed, Hitler’s rise to power.

This is a complicated issue as a lot of things happened at the close of WWI and in the interwar period that created conditions in Germany that made Germans receptive to the rise of Nazism. Yeah, I think there was sort of an innate Wagnerian sense of Teutonic superiority and mythology that was operating. But with all the demands for territorial concessions, reparations and military occupation that France in particular, and Britain too, made on Germany following WWI, the Allies helped engender a sense of desperation in the German people. And when people are desperate, they become susceptible to radical influences.

During Armistice negotiations then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson called for a “Peace Between Equals”. The agreement that was signed, and its aftermath, were anything but. And we played a big price down the road.

The White Ribbon took top prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Here’s the trailer. (YouTube) And if you’re in the mood for a double-bill, A Town Called Panic is playing at 7 p.m. Here’s a link to a post Shane did on our old blog on this animated feature from Belgium.    

Musicwise, DFA with Tarantuja and Robot v Monster are at Fainting Goat Restaurant. It’s an all-ages gig. Doors are at 6 p.m. $5. And no, I’m not sure about the Death From Above allusion either.

Pick of the Day: Big Fan

With major league baseball kicking off its 2010 season tonight, and CFL teams gearing up for the opening of training camp in two months time, I decided to make Big Fan my pick-of-the-day. It’s written by Robert Siegel, who scripted The Wrestler, and stars Patton Oswalt as a New Yorker who crosses over the line from fan to fanatic in his obsessive love for the local NFL team the Giants.

Later this fall, as part of celebrations surrounding the Saskatchewan Roughriders 100th anniversary the Dunlop Art Gallery is planning an exhibition on the nature of fandom in this age of celebrity and spectacle. Should be a provocative show. For a taste of what’s to come, check out Big Fan. It screens at the RPL Theatre tonight at 7 p.m. Here’s the trailer. (YouTube)

And if you’re up for a double-bill, Veit Helmer’s Absurdistan screens at 9 p.m. The film, which is in Russian with English subtitles, qualifies as a romantic comedy, although it’s setting (an Afghanistan-style town where the women go on a sex strike to motivate the men to work harder to improve their community) is not exactly typical of the genre. Neither does it star Jennifer Aniston and/or Vince Vaughn. Here’s the trailer. (YouTube)

Pick Of The Day: The Yes Men Fix The World

Maybe ten years ago I interviewed Kalle Lasn, the founder of Adbusters, by phone from his office in Vancouver. One of the things we talked about was culture jamming. When you’re trying to resist the mind-numbing conformity of vacuous pop culture and reactionary conservative orthodoxy, you have to confront a harsh truth. They have way more money, resources, power and influence than you do. Take them on in a traditional fight, you’ll be handed your ass and sent packing pretty quick.

What you have to do is think strategically, and deploy your resources wisely. And culture jamming sure can help. It kind of works like judo where, when you’re fighting a bigger and stronger opponent, you try to get them to over-commit then turn their size and strength against them.

The Yes Men are culture jammers par excellence. In December, they made headlines globally when they set up a dummy Environment Canada website during the Copenhagen Climate Talks and announced that Canada was adopting new emission targets to address climate change. Especially in the Harper era, Canada has been regarded internationally as an environmental laggard, and the announcement was greeted with jubilation by a member of the Ugandan delegation at a subsequent press conference.

Only problem was, it wasn’t a legit announcement. And the press conference wasn’t real either. It was all a ruse by the subjects of this documentary which screens tonight at 7 p.m. at the RPL Theatre. As anti-globalization activists, the Yes Men (two performance artists named Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos) have taken on Dow Chemical, Exxon and other powerful targets with ingenious media attacks that undermine their credibility and expose their hypocrisy when it comes to the environment and other social justice issues.

Following their Copenhagen triumph, the Yes Men pulled a similar stunt at a World Economic Forum in Davos where they released a statement expressing a committment on behalf of world leaders to eradicate poverty.

Here’s links to Dog Blog posts on the Copenhagen and Davos salvos. And here’s the trailer for the movie. (YouTube)

100 Years of Akira Kurosawa

Today would have been Akira Kurosawa’s One Hundredth birthday if he was still alive today. He was one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Seriously. His movies are amazing to watch. In honour of this day, The Criterion Collection has just released his films Yojimbo and Sanjuro on Blu-ray. Turner Classic Movies  has also been running a marathon of Kurosawa movies all day.

If you have never seen one I highly recommend either Yojimbo or Sanjuro and although Sanjuro is the sequel to Yojimbo – it’s stands up on it’s own quite well. Or Seven Samurai. Or Ikiru, Rashomon, High and Low, Ran – well you can’t really go wrong.


Pick of the Day: La Donation

In English, the title of this film translates as The Legacy. It’s the third in a trilogy written and directed by Bernard Emond. It’s being presented at the RPL Theatre tonight at 7 p.m. as part of Les Rendez-vous du Cinema Quebec which is being hosted by Institut Francais at the University of Regina and the Conseil Culturel Fransaskois. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for students.

Previous instalments in Emond’s trilogy include La Neuvaine (The Novena) in 2005 and Contre Toute Esperance (Summit Circle) in 2007. La Donation stars Jacques Godin as an elderly country doctor who enjoys a deep attachment to his patients. With retirement looming, he searches for a successor, and eventually convinces an emergency room doctor from Montreal (played by Elise Guilbault) to come to the small town of Abitibi replace him for a few weeks while he takes a holiday.

I won’t divulge any more of the plot, other than to note that while La Donation is set in Quebec, the dilemma the residents of Abitibi face is one that many small communities in Saskatchewan and across Canada face when it comes to the retention of physicians. Here’s the trailer.

 And if you’re reading this early enough, as part of Les Rendez-vous, four short films will be screened at the Institut Francais theatre (LI215) beginning at 10:30 a.m. with discussion to follow.

Pick of the Day: Genius Within

At the RPL Theatre this weekend there’s been a bit of a Glenn Gould Film Festival screening. In addition to this documentary by Peter Raymont and Michele Hozer, which is subtitled The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, Francois Girard’s classic 1993 feature 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould has also been playing.

Born in 1932, Gould was a child prodigy who could play and read music before he was four. Taught exclusively by his mother until he was ten, he became one of the most acclaimed concert pianists of his era. Bach’s Goldberg Variations was a favourite of his, I believe, and at the height of his popularity in the 1950s and ‘60s he was a true national icon.

Gould was also pretty eccentric. Eighteen years before his death in 1982 at age 50, he quit the concert stage and never again performed in public. He was also a huge hypochondriac. But he was also a genius. And our society sometimes doesn’t look very kindly on people like that.

For further insight, check out one or both of these flicks. Genius Within screens at 7 p.m., 32 Short Films at 9 p.m. And to set the stage, here’s video of Gould performing sections of the Goldberg Variations on TV in the early ‘60s. (YouTube)

This afternoon, there’s also a free family-friendly performance by Maritime musician and storyteller David Stone at the Royal Sask Museum between 2-4 p.m. The gig is being presented by Regina’s Spring Free From Racism Committee. And tonight at the Exchange Camaromance (a.k.a. Martine Groulx) is playing as part of a national tour in support of her third album The Parade. Here’s the video for her 2008 song “Mostly Harmless” (YouTube)

Review: Alice in Wonderland

Hella underwhelmingJust read through the prairie dog‘s review of Alice in Wonderland, and I can agree on this much: this movie falls flat.

Burton seems to have just given up on making a film that’s even entertaining. When Alice is amusing, he fouls it up and destroys any semblance of tone he’s build. (SPOILER EXAMPLE: There’s a breakdance routine.)

The movie is frustratingly inconsistent in how it imagines Wonderland visually and as a place. The contradiction of a too-concrete world divorced from reality would be impressive if it didn’t drive me fucking nuts.

Burton normally succeeds visually – just think of the wonderfully-shot black and white Ed Wood or the contrasting broken-down mansion and suburban ideal in Edward Scissorhands. The visuals in Alice show the same indecision that damn the rest of the of this movie. He can’t decide whether to make the film a more realistic Alice in Wonderland or a complete flight of fancy.

Plus, they run a song sung by Avril Lavigne about Alice over the credits. C’mon – that’s just adding insult to injury.