The Visitor

We watched The Visitor tonight. The story of an Economics professor, stuck in an emotional limbo who gets involved in the lives of two illegal immigrants in NY is captivating, powerful in its simplicity, and leave you feeling like you should run and join an immigrants’ rights NGO or something. It’s not surprising it won many awards and scored 92% at the tomatometer. In Toronto, you can still catch it at the Carlton. Don’t miss it.

Mamma Mia!

I can’t wait to see it!! I loved the play and the movie has Colin Firth, Meryl Streep and Julie Walters. Can’t miss it. Click on the pictures to watch the trailer.

Update: Just got back from the movie theatre. Alan and I LOVED the movie. I was afraid it wouldn’t be as funny as the play but I’m happy to say that I was wrong. It was quite entertaining and there were many moments when the audience clapped, sniffled, and clapped again. Meryl Streep’s performance of the The Winner Takes it All was one of the most emotionally-charged scenes I’ve seen in a long time. I had tears in my eyes and when I looked at the woman sitting beside me, she was sobbing. Now I’m seating on the couch listening to ABBA at full volume. Good thing I live in the gay village… I really want to see the movie again! The mission now is to try to convince a friend who doesn’t like ABBA that she has to see it… Such a feel-good movie.

Once

What a cute movie! Alan is now all inspired into getting back into his music… Once is an unpretentious Irish movie about two struggling musicians (played by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová) was shot entirely with two handheld cameras over 17 days and has collected awards everywhere. The soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy and one of the songs won the Oscars last month. Here’s the performance during the awards’ ceremony:

And here’s their award acceptance speech. Irglová was cut off during her acceptance speech but the academy had the decency to bring her back on stage:

If you have’t seen it, it’s available on DVD.

Atonement & the Oscars

Last night we watched Atonement. I haven’t read the book but I really loved the movie. It’s sad, unfair, beautifully made, all the stuff of a great movie.

I know Hollywood’s Academy Awards (aka Oscars) is an over-hyped, self-centered event, but I’ve been a faithful watcher ever since I was a kid. Growing up in Brazil, my older brother and I used to watch the movies – or as many of thema s we could – beforehand, make our own lists, and make huge batches of popcorn while we sat in front of the TV for 3-4 hours to watch the show. We kept track of awards, made predictions, got upset when our favourites didn’t win…It’s one of those moments in the year when I miss my brother the most.

This years big nominees are: There Will Be Blood (8 nominations), No Country for Old Men (8), Atonement (7), Michael Clayton (7), Ratatouille (5), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (4), Juno (4).I’ve watched Ratatouille and Atonement and would really like to watch some of the others before the awards ceremony.

The only catch this year is that I don’t have a TV! I guess I’ll have to invite myself to a friend’s place that night… Or watch it at Massey…

Indigènes

Translated into English as Days of Glory, Indigènes is the story of a unit of North African soldiers recruited to help liberate France in the waning days of the Second World War. Sold on the idea that fighting to free la patrie would bring them closer to the ideals of liberté, égalité, fraternité, the natives (indigènes in French) of North Africa give it all in this epic film. Shedding blood for France, however, is not enough to overcome racism and discrimination within the military and the more valiant and competent among the indigènes see promotion after promotion going to the French soldiers.

Written and directed by Rashid Bouchareb, a French director of Algerian descent, Indigènes is the kind of film that makes me wish I taught twentieth-century history just so I could show it to my students.  Both the first and second world wars stirred hope in European colonies around the globe. No doubt many natives of the colonies felt that fighting for freedom alongside their colonizers would open doors for them at home. Such hopes were more often than not quashed at the end of the war, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of many who felt they had given as much, if not more, than the European soldier but received no recognition of their efforts. It’s not surprise the movie come in a period in which France struggles with its inability to accommodate immigrants arriving from its former colonies.

The legacy of the colonized in shaping the internal history of the colonizers is a topic seldom explored. And this film is a good place to start.

A review here.

Toronto International Film Festival

Every year, Toronto hosts one of the top film festivals in the world. If you know where to go, spotting a famous star is not hard. Since the festival usually happens in the first couple of weeks of september and it usually coincides with the back-to-school hype, I never really attended before. This year I decided I had to watch at least a couple of movies. I in fact watched three! I decided to watch only foreign movies, since the North American movies would be easy enough to find in the mainstream movie theatres or at least in movie rentals.

These are the movies I watched:

Barcelona, a map (Barcelona, un mapa) by Ventura Pons – I couldn’t miss a Catalan movie set in Barcelona, could I? Neither could Alan, so off we went to the movie theatre on a Sunday evening. You’ll find a synopsis of the movie on the link above. I really enjoyed the movie. It was psychological and intimate, and the story unfolded a bit at a time. It wasn’t until the end that you understood all that was going on. I like movies like that. But the big treat was to find out, just before the movie started, that the screening I was in was actually the world premiere of the movie and that the producer was there. Ventura Pons himself came to the stage, introduced the movie and after the screening he went back up to answer questions. It was really interesting. Particularly interesting was to witness the care he took in not be construed as a Catalan separatist, despite the fact that his movie starts with Franco’s speech against Catalan nationalism and outlining a program for the “hispanicization” of Catalonia.

Useless (Wu Yong) by Jia Zhang-ke – This was an interesting documentary on consumer society in China that seemed promising but which I didn’t enjoy so much. It starts by showing workers in a clothing factory, then it moves on to the work of a Chinese fashion designer that likes to think outside the box and push boundaries, and it ends with the life of workers in a coal mine in inland China. I don’t think the different parts connected very well. But overall, an interesting glimpse of Chinese life.

And along come tourists (Am Ende kommen Touristen) by Robert Thalheim – Very good. I really enjoyed this one. This one is about Sven, a young German guy who volunteers to do his civil service in Auschwitz. He didn’t really want to go, he had volunteered to work at a youth hostel in Amsterdam instead but couldn’t get in. The camp has now become a major tourist/education attraction and, as such, plays an important economical role for the small Polish town where it is located. It’s a fascinating movie for those of us interested in historical memory and commemoration. When I was in Europe, I felt, at times, the discomfort Sven portrays when faced at the business-like, facile way the past can be commemorated. In the case of the Holocaust, the case is even more difficult for surely the past must be remembered and Thalheim asks as the question: but how is it best to do so?

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All in all, it was a good festival. Alan has put his name down to volunteer next year. Should be fun!

PS: Did I mention the uptight guy that sat beside me at the movie theatre last night? I noticed that looked my way every once in a while but thought nothing of it. Until he finally leans over and says “do you think you’ll be finishing that soon?”. He was referring to my small bag of popcorn, which I always get when I go watch a movie (it’s some sort of Pavlovian response that has cinema = popcorn firmly imprinted in my brain). I merelly raised an eyebrow and stiffled a giggle. Come on! This is a movie theatre. Where people are supposed to eat popcorn. If you can’t deal with the noise of people eating the above-mentioned popcorn, clearly a movie theatre is not for you.   Honestly, some people are just crazy…