All posts by Norm Wilner

Norman Wilner is a film critic who lives in Toronto.

Truth, and Occasionally Beauty

So, Hot Docs had its launch conference yesterday, and I did my best to capture the salient points in this piece for the NOW site. (Not included: The revelation that current SEMcast guest Sofia Bohdanowicz will be premiering her new film Maison du Bonheur at the fest, but only because that news arrived too late for inclusion.)

Bottom line: There’s a crap-ton of features and shorts racing towards us and we are barely prepared, people. It may even be time to panic.

Oh, but not before we get through this year’s Canadian Film Festival, which kicked off last night with an atrocious new satire from Ken Finkleman but greatly improves tonight and stays pretty solid straight through Saturday’s closing night screening of Filth Nation. I wrote about that too, because I am a goddamn machine.

Twirling Ever Downward

This week on Someone Else’s Movie, I welcome Toronto filmmaker Sofia Bohdanowicz, whose first feature Never Eat Alone has its hometown premiere at the Lightbox on Saturday.

Sofia picked Lars Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark, a movie which she loves, and which I continue to find frustrating and confusing some 17 years after its release. And so our conversation spins out in a number of different directions, covering the breadth of Von Trier’s cinema, the rise of a certain other look-at-me filmmaker, the responsibility a director has to his (or her) actors and a digression about pizza and Toni Erdmann which I just couldn’t bear to clip out.

It was a blast, and I hope you enjoy it. And if you’re in town, check out Sofia’s movie on Saturday night; she’s a really intriguing talent, and she’s amassing a very strong body of work. (Also, Dexter wuvs her.)

You know where to  go: Subscribe  on  iTunesGoogle Play and Stitcher, plug the show into your favorite podfetcher, or download it right from the site.  Enjoy it! And try to imagine Matt Besser’s Bjork seething in the corner while you listen.

Old Friends, Long Gone

It’s weird, really. Some weeks everyone gets out of the way of the giant studio picture, and other weeks there’s a sense of opportunity and everybody rushes in with their counter-programming.

Will Disney dominate the landscape with its latest live-action remake? Yeah, probably. But there are other options.

After the Storm: Hirokazu Kore-eda does his very specific thing, making a precise and subtle drama about a family in the process of dissolution, and it’s beautiful and moving and lovely.

Beauty and the Beast: Emma Watson and a digitally transformed Dan Stevens wander around in an elaborate re-creation of Disney’s 1991 classic, and we’re supposed to pretend there’s a point to all of it.

Goon: Last of the Enforcers: Jay Baruchel steps up to direct the sequel to the 2011 comedy he co-created, but the magic is considerably diminished. I’m sure there are still stories to tell about these characters … just not this story, you know?

Karl Marx City: Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker — makers of Gunner Palace and Fightville, among others — turn their lens inward to investigate Epperlein’s childhood in East Germany, and the mystery surrounding her father’s 1999 suicide. Susan loved it.

The Lure: The phrase “demented Polish mermaid musical” doesn’t even begin to cover the glories of Agnieszka Smoczynska’s gonzo production, which takes a whole bunch of ideas and mooshes them into one magnificent fleshy lump of creativity. Just see it, okay?

The Sense of An Ending: Despite strong performances from the likes of Jim Broadbent, Harriet Walter and Charlotte Rampling, Susan found Ritesh Batra’s adaptation of Julian Barnes’ novel a disappointment in both structural and dramatic terms. Which, bummer.

The Settlers: A decade after Shimon Dotan examined the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Hot House, he’s back with a primer on the Zionist settler movement, which has arguably done more damage to the peace process than any war or terrorist act. So, you know, hooray for that.

T2 Trainspotting: Danny Boyle, John Hodge and their electrifying cast reunite for a sequel that not only knows you can’t go home again, but weaponizes that knowledge. That it works as well as it does is a surprise — but I should have expected nothing less from Boyle.

Weirdos: Six years after making Trigger, Bruce McDonald and Daniel MacIvor conjure up this simple charmer about two kids (Dylan Authors and the amazing Julia Sarah Stone) hitchhiking across Nova Scotia. With a cameo by Molly Parker that’s grown a lot more powerful since she told me the story behind it.

That’s everything, I think. Have a good weekend, and try to get outside if you can. The sun helps.

This Time, It’s Personal

In this week’s NOW (well, just on the website), I talk to Molly Parker about her latest movie, Bruce McDonald’s Weirdos.

As you’ll see, the conversation took an unexpected turn — in a good way, mind you — and I tried to do justice to that in the piece.

Even so, the experience of writing it was weird … which I guess makes sense, given the project. Anyway. Read it, you’ll see what I mean.

Breathing Room

In the beginning, I worried that Someone Else’s Movie was a little limited as a concept — what happens when we run out of good movies to talk about? — but as the show rolls into its third year, the choices are only getting more interesting.

This week, for instance, Hello Destroyer writer-director Kevan Funk picked one of my top films of the ’90s, and a movie that isn’t talked about nearly often enough: Todd Haynes’ Safe, the skin-crawling social satire-cum-horror movie starring Julianne Moore as a California woman whose comfortable life is shredded when she develops a mysterious illness.

It’s a great movie and it made for a terrific conversation, so obviously you should go and listen to it. Find it on  iTunesGoogle Play and Stitcher, or just go straight to the source. And enjoy it!

Island of Weirdos

It is a very strange week for the movies. The 800-pound gorilla of the week, Kong: Skull Island, is a giant-monster movie unlike any other before it … and you could say the same about all of the counterprogramming, too. Let’s check ’em out, shall we?

Hello Destroyer: Kevan Funk’s hockey drama takes a cerebral approach to a brutally corporeal subject, and it’s pretty effective … though I do think it would be even more effective at a tighter running time.

Kong: Skull Island: Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who made The Kings of Summer and directed the pilot of You’re the Worst, brings his specific weirdness to a giant-monster movie with a whole bunch of interesting actors. And it kinda rules.

The Last Laugh: Ferne Pearlstein’s documentary picks up on an idea Alan Zweig first explored in When Jews Were Funny: Is it possible to make jokes about the Holocaust, and are Jewish comics in an especially good position to do so? Susan considers her own response to the question in her review, which is also interesting.

The Last Word: Susan has so much love for Shirley MacLaine’s performance in Mark Pellington’s obituary comedy that she’s willing to forgive a number of its weaknesses. (Me, I’m wondering what Mark Pellington — of Arlington Road and The Mothman Prophecies — is doing making comedies.

Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming: There’s a precision to Ann Marie Fleming’s delicate animated drama that belies the casual affect of its hero, an intensely self-conscious young woman (voiced by Sandra Oh) whose trip to a poetry festival in Iran becomes an investigation into her own history.  And it’s lovely.

That’s everything, right? Keep an eye on my Twitter feed for coverage of the Canadian Screen Awards on Sunday night, or check back on Monday for the winners. Never bet against Xavier Dolan, is all I’m saying.

Tat and Tom and Daniel and Me

This week’s episode of Someone Else’s Movie is really special, in more ways than one. Regular listeners know that Tatiana Maslany is basically the reason the podcast exists — it was a digression about Under the Skin during a phone interview with her about Cas and Dylan that ultimately led me to the concept. (Well, that and a subsequent conversation with Seymour Bernstein.)

Anyway, it took two years — she’s busy and all — but I finally got her for the podcast, along with her partner Tom Cullen, with whom she co-stars in Joey Klein’s crushingly intimate The Other Half , which comes to VOD in Canada today and arrives in American theatrical release on Friday.

They picked There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic 2007 study of a ferocious oil baron carving his way across America in the early decades of the 20th century. It’s a hell of a movie, and a hell of an episode — we got all hopped up on sugar and jumped right into Daniel Day-Lewis impressions, basically. It was as good a conversation as I’ve ever had for this show, and almost exactly two years to the day after launching the podcast I’m delighted to be able to share it with you.

You know the drill, right? You can find it on iTunesGoogle Play and Stitcher, or download it right from the site. Please do that. This one’s a joy.

Weary of War

I had a really good day yesterday, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a really good day today. If you see Logan this weekend, that’ll be a pretty good day too.

Ballerina: Okay, so Rad  might not have had the best day watching this family-fare CG import, but I was uptown at Bitter Harvest so we both suffered profoundly.

Before I Fall: It’s Groundhog Day as a high-school movie — only with less frustrated comedy and more existential angst, because it’s Groundhog Day as a high-school movie. But Zoey Deutch is really quite good at inhabiting her character.

Bitter Harvest: George Mendeluk’s inept, ludicrously self-important drama about the Ukrainian famine should be screened in every film school as a warning to burgeoning filmmakers. It won’t be, but it should be.

Logan: James Mangold and Hugh Jackman get back together for one last Wolverine movie, and it is frankly fantastic, bringing this specific X-Man’s saga to a close with bruised integrity and a dark comic streak. Also, Stephen Merchant is in it.

Saigon Bodyguards: It’s not a game-changer or anything, but as dopey action comedies go, this one — made in Vietnam with Korean and Canadian money — is oddly charming, and I would probably be very enthusiastic about a sequel. And Kim Ly should totally play The Rock’s secret half-brother in the next Fast and/or Furious movie.

The Shack: Rad calls bullshit on the blatant pandering of  Stuart Hazeldine’s faith-based drama, and dear lord does it sound horrible. Octavia Spencer and Sam Worthington deserve so much better than this.

Table 19: A really talented cast produces precious few laughs in Jeffrey Blitz’ wedding comedy … though if you decide Stephen Merchant is playing the same character as he is in Logan, things do get a little more interesting.

Also, the Toronto Irish Film Festival settles into the Lightbox this weekend, and here is my piece on that.  You’re not going to want to miss How to Defuse a Bomb, which is not the documentary that you think it might be.