Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Kids Are All Right So Stop Asking

The Kids Are All Right

As a newlywed the one question I always get is “so how is married life treating you?” To which I usually respond “good so far, just taking it one day at a time.” The latter part of my response always seems to evoke a peculiar look from the person who initially asked the question. I guess they expect me to be wearing the same rose colour glasses that many wear just after the “big day”. Yet that has never been my style, I have always taken a more realistic approach to relationships. I am fully aware that relationships take a lot to maintain and it only gets harder as the years go by.

It is this understanding that makes Lisa Cholodenko’s film, The Kids Are All Right, flow so well. Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) have been in a committed relationship for 18 years. Living with their two teenage children, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) Laser (Josh Hutcherson), the couple appear to have the perfect life. The cracks in their relationships only begin to surface when their kids decide to seek out their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo). The presence of Paul comes as a huge shock to Nic and Jules, and forces them to re-evaluate the dynamics of their relationship.

The Kids Are All Right examines how easily people fall into particular roles in relationships. These roles often become a prison of sorts as they inadvertently serve as the thing that defines them most in their relationships. Nic has always been the assertive one in the union. She is the bread winner who strives for excellence. These traits have been passed down to Joni, who Nic gave birth to. Jules on the other hand is the free spirit who never follows through with things. Her passions are often fleeting which makes it hard to for Nic to truly get behind Jules’ latest plan to start a landscaping business.


In many ways, Paul represents the sides of Nic and Jules that they have lost during their lengthy relationship. Paul has managed to turn his lack of formal education into a successful restaurant business, while still maintaining that passion for the finer things in life. In Paul’s case this includes music, wine and women. This is why Nic and Jules find themselves in such a tailspin around Paul. Jules sees everything she fell in love with about Nic in Paul. Paul also serves as a reminder to Nic of what her life was before everything became so serious.

Although there are several levels at play, Cholodenko’s film is able to express them all well through her wonderfully written script. While Bening, Moore, and Ruffalo will receive praise for their great performances, and rightfully so, it is the screenplay that makes this film a must-see in my opinion. Similar to her work in both High Art and Laural Canyon, Lisa Cholodenko has a way with words that is not appreciated the way it should be. There is rarely a moment where the plot or the situation feels forced. There are many moments in The Kids Are All Right where you can identify with the elements of their relationships. The excellent script coupled with the great performances allows The Kids Are All Right to standout above other recent films that have tried to show just how complicated relationships really are.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Movie Marketing Monday


Cars 2

Behind A Bug’s Life, Cars was my second least favourite of the Pixar canon of films. Cars 2 on the other hand looks like it might actually be a vast improvement on its predecessor. I really like the James Bond angle of the trailer. Sure the spy stuff was already done in The Incredibles, but hopefully Cars 2 will bring something new to the genre.




The Mechanic

I like that Ben Foster is in this film. Foster is one of the best young actors working today in my opinion. Plus, Jason Statham has proven many times that he can deliver on the action front.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sharing the Blogging Love


Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading Schedule for Today:

10 am: The 11th episode of Milfcast (the Man, I Love Film podcast) is now up.

11 am: Ripley shares her thoughts on Save the Green Planet.

12 pm: Unflinching Eye takes a moment to remember horror icon Ingrid Pitt who passed away this week.

1 pm: Rory recommends Down to the Bone, a Vera Farmiga film that somehow passed me by.

2 pm: Angie and Chantale suffer from catatonic woman déjà vu.

3 pm: While I am not a huge fan of Tony Scott’s films, Mike’s praise of Unstoppable has me intrigued about Scott’s latest adrenaline rush.

4 pm: Jump_Raven looks at The Cook The Thief His Wife & Her Lover, a cinematic gem in my opinion.

5 pm: French Toast Sunday lists The Top 10 Films That Made Them Cry

6 pm: The Evening Class highlights an interesting sounding documentary called Marwencol.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Here's the Pitch...

Here's the Pitch...


Depending on your personal view, giving a verbal six minute presentation can either be excruciatingly long, or ridiculously quick. This is what crossed my mind while observing the So You Think You Can Pitch competition at the Reel Asian Film Festival last week. Although the competition was designed to provide filmmakers a chance to garner funding for their next project, it also severed as a great way for industry folks to meet the filmmakers and do a little networking. As the event was open to the public as well I could not pass up the opportunity to observe a real life pitch session.

As much as I may occasionally crumble about having to produce online content on days when I have been put through the wringer at work, the life of a blogger is ridiculously easy compared to the life of a filmmaker. For all the criticism, commentary, and debates, movie bloggers have, at the end of the day, we are just talking about the end product of someone else’s journey. It is always easier to critique than it is to actually create. This is one of the reasons why I found the pitch competition so intriguing.

With only two cash prizes available, and a total of five filmmakers competing, it was not enough to just have a good film idea, but also to ensure that the jury and the live audience had the exact same movie playing in their heads. By time the pitch sessions ended the crowd was abuzz about which two film each person wanted to win. What made the two winners standout to the most in the eyes of the jury? To be honest, it all came down to the little things. Below are the simple things that I observed which anyone who is seriously thinking about pitching a film idea needs to do:

1. Know Your Story.
Regardless of whether you wrote the script, are an actor in the film, or are serving as a producer, ensure you know the story well enough that you can recite the plot in your sleep. Sounds simple I know. Yet when it comes to public speaking, or presenting in a meeting setting, nerves often tend to make people rely heavily on notes. There was a pitch in which the story, which focused on a struggling Asian actress, was interesting but the director’s reliance on his cuecards ended up be rather distracting.


2. Have Something Physically Ready To Submit.
Concept is nice in theory, but at the end of the day it often comes down to the script. Even if you do not have a full script ready be sure to have enough pages, including a detailed outline, to give the reader a good sense of both the plot and tone of the film. 

3. Visual Aids: Nice Touch.
One of the winning pitches was a documentary about the how English and Spanish colonialism led to the demises of the sugarcane industry in a particular section of the Philippines. As the director shared her vision for the film, her director of photography displayed images of the region in question on the screen. This helped to give gravity to the overall tone of the film. The same can be said for the animated film pitch about two inner city girls playing with their imaginary friend. As the story unfolds it is revealed that the imaginary friend is really the chalk outline of their dead friend. The two creators had rough sketches, and 3D scales, of both the characters and the playground environment.

4. Visual Aids: Nice But Not Needed.
Before you start scratching your head and referring back to the previous point, let me explain. While visual aids help to get your message across, they can also hurt you. One of the common traps many of the filmmakers fell into was simply regurgitating what was being shown on the screen.

5. What is the Cost?
This could easily be in the number two slot as money is always at the bottom line. Although every filmmaker had to submit a budget estimate, the jury was quick to raise the point that some of the filmmaker’s visions seem larger than budget. Investors always want the biggest return on the smallest investments so it is important to always be on the search for additional funding. This is why it is important to ensure that you apply for as many of the local grants, that most cities allot to the Arts, as possible. Local funding is a great help for first-time filmmakers, the interesting this is that most people do not realize that these type of grants even exist. 


6. Who Are You Pissing Off?
This is more in regards to the folks who are making documentaries, especially ones in foreign countries, who may need permission to film in particular areas. Sure you can try and go the guerrilla filmmaking route, but it is tough to finish your film while you are sitting in prison.

7. What Will Your Film Look Like?
Will you use minimal tones of Soderbergh? Or will your film be glossy similar to Spielberg? While you may consider this a minor detail, it is important to remember that we live in a world obsessed with comparison. Sometimes people need to associate your vision with something they are somewhat familiar with.

While the pitch session is merely one of the early stages in the overall filmmaking process, it is an important one that can derail an entire project. As a result, it needs to be taken as seriously as the other elements in filmmaking.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Terror Not So Chilling

The Terror

The Terror is a film that promises thrills and chills but in reality its only real selling point is that it features horror icon Boris Karloff. Yet even fans of Karloff will find little to cheer about in this schlock fest of a film. Instead of instilling fear, The Terror offers up unintentional laughs and a plot twist that are silly even by Roger Corman standards.

Set in the 18th Century a young French lieutenant in Napoleon’s army, Andre Duvalier (Jack Nicholson), gets separated from his regiment. While searching for his troops Andre encounters a beautiful woman, Helene (Sandra Knight), who he watches walk into the sea and disappear. Andre attempt to go after the woman but is overcome by the rough tide. When Andre awakes in the home of an old woman, Katrina (Dorothy Neumann), he is told that Helene is merely a figment of his imagination. Believing that what he saw was real, Andre is determined to find Helene at all costs. Andre eventually receives a tip that the answers he seeks are within the walls of a castle owned by the reclusive Baron Von Leppe (Boris Karloff). Andre uses his army clout to get inside the castle, yet he soon realizes that the truth he seeks is far more terrifying than he could ever imagine.

The Terror relies heavily on the audience suspending their disbelief on pretty much every single aspect of the film. It is hard to believe that Andre would be so infatuated with Helene based on one mere encounter. Especially in regards to the lengths at which he goes about finding information is just ridiculous. He uses his status in Napoleon’s army as a means of doing whatever he wants in the Baron’s home.


The problem with giving Andre so much free reign is that it takes away from other character development. This film is suppose to be the Boris Karloff show, but he does nothing more than mourn a former love for the majority of the film. The fact that the Baron is so underdeveloped hinders Andre’s character as well. Jack Nicholson is essentially asked to carry the film yet he plays everything so straight. Nicholson does not even attempt to somewhat try and make himself seem French. In his scenes with Karloff, it is clear that Nicholson does not want to upstage Karloff at all; which results in their scenes together being rather uneventful.

Even the campy Roger Corman horror and action sequences were not enough to raise this film up to a mild recommendation. The opening credits are the most chills that Corman offers until you reach the final couple of frames. While the ending “scare” is good, it is not worth sitting through the entire movie for. Frankly Corman, Karloff, and Nicholson have all done better work than The Terror.





Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The American Retirement Plan In Italy To Die For

The American

I have noticed a fair bit of George Clooney backlash on the internet over the past year. I am not sure what the root of it is as Clooney has developed into a really good actor within the last ten years. Instead of opting for the easy paycheck, George Clooney has been rather consistent in selecting works that are both challenging and layered. A perfect example of this can be found in his work in Anton Corbijn’s The American.

In the film George Clooney plays Jack, an American assassin who specializes in weapons making. After his latest assignment goes horribly wrong, Jack informs his liaison, Pavel (Johan Leysen), that he plans to retire after his next mission. Jack’s final assignment takes him to the Italian countryside where he is commissioned to build a light sniper rifle for a client, Mathilde (Thelka Reuten). While in Italy, Jack befriends a local priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and begins a romance with a local prostitute, Clara (Violante Placido). Jack also discovers that someone has placed a bounty on his head. As Jack tries to figure out who is out to get him, he is forced to consider the possibility that it could be an old enemy or one of his new acquaintances. 

The American unfolds at a slow measured pace for which even the big action moments are treated with soft subtle tone. While the pacing will annoy some viewers, The American is a film that rewards viewers for their patience. Director Anton Corbijn shows how easily the paranoia can build in Jack’s line of work. This leads to several tense moments where even the simplest conversations, such as the ones Jack has with Clara, take on a whole other meaning for Jack. Corbijn’s film implies that, even in retirement, Jack will never truly be at rest.


George Clooney does a terrific job of conveying Jack’s weariness. After years of killing and living a solitary life, Jack is no longer as sharp as he once was. The passion for companionship has taking over his passion for the kill. Jack’s greatest weakness is his love of women. Despite the events that occurred with his last relationship, Jack still falls into the same trappings with Clara.

While engaging, the Jack and Clara romantic arc is rather predictable. In fact, this is the biggest flaw with The American on the whole. The film has a level of predictability that is hard to ignore. Still, like the stylish films of the seventies which serve as Anton Corbijn’s inspiration, even though the ride maybe familiar you still enjoy taking it nonetheless. The American is one of the better film to hit theatres this year.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Movie Marketing Monday



Your Highness

If Dungeons and Dragons had a baby with Robin Hood: Men in Tights the result would be this film.




Source Code

What would you do if you only had 8 minutes to live?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dear Doctor, The Drugs Don’t Work

Dear Doctor

The surprising thing about Dear Doctor is how subtle and effective its overall impact is. It is a film that leads you in one direction only to reveal itself as something else completely.

Dear Doctor focuses on a police investigation surrounding the disappearance of Dr. Osamu Ino (Tsurube Shofukutei). Loved by the residents of the rural village in which he worked and admired by his colleagues, nurse Akemi Otake (Kimiko Yo) and medical intern Keisuke Soma (Eita), Dr. Ino seem to have it all. Yet as the police dig deeper, it becomes apparent that Dr. Ino may not be the man he appears to be. As questions begin to arise about Dr. Ino’s disappearance, so do questions surrounding his treatment of patients, especially widower Torikai-san (Kaoru Yachigusa).

At first, Dear Doctor takes the tone of a light-hearted rural comedy. The story initially appears to be about Keisuke adapting to the rural way of life and Dr. Ino’s slightly unorthodox methods. Yet director Miwa Nishikawa slowly peels away the layers to reveal a rather complex tale that questions whether there is such thing as an honourable lie? Nishikawa also ponders to what extent has modern medical care failed its patients?

Despite his questionable background and ethics, Dr. Osamu Ino is still viewed as a savior by many of the villagers. In many ways, the fact that Dr. Ino’s treated his patient like human beings had a far more lasting impact than the quick assessments that most people receive in the city. The patients were more than just a number to Osamu and this is evident in his tender scenes with Torikai-san.


The relationship between Osamu and Torikai-san allows the film to provide food for thought for both sides of the debate. On one hand, you have the cops’ point of view in regards to ethical lines being crossed. The officers are constantly trying to remind Torikai-san that a crime has been committed. Yet Torikai-san is never fully willing to believe this. In her eyes, sometimes it is alright to break the rules if you truly care about someone.

Dear Doctor is a film which offers much fodder for discussion. My only real complaint with the film is that Miwa Nishikawa drags out the ending a bit too long. At times it feels like the film has four different endings, three of which are unnecessary. Still, Dear Doctor is a film that shows just how blurred the lines between right and wrong can be.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

One Big Hapa Family A Large Animated Bunch

One Big Hapa Family

The question of identity is one that everyone encounters in some form or another in their lifetime. Depending on your ethnicity, this may be a topic that you have to confront on a daily basis. Even in a multicultural country like Canada, the question of “what are you?” is one that pops up more often than people are willing to admit. The inherent need to associate people with categories is a topic explored in Jeff Chiba Stearns wonderful documentary, One Big Hapa Family.

Jeff Chiba Stearns, the product of an interracial marriage between his Japanese mother and white Canadian father, noticed at a fairly recent family reunion that everyone in his large family was of mixed race. Having had problems answering the question “what are you?” for most of his life, Jeff decided to explore why such a high percentage of Japanese Canadians marry outside of their race.

What starts out as a search to understand his own identity leads to the discovery of some startling facts that date back to the Second World War. Streans looks back to a time when Canada was not so accepting of other cultures as it appears to be now. The war brought out the worst in Canada in regards to racism toward people of Japanese ancestry. It even created a divide between the “hometown Japanese”, who were barely accepted by the communities they lived in for years, and the “coastal Japanese” who were seen as the villains of the war.


Stearns research shows that the need to assimilate with the white Canadians opened up the door to interracial marriages. Part of the appeal had to do with the offspring of these unions, the future generations would look whiter and would not have to deal with the same level of racism that their parents endured. Stearns’ documentary examines how these views have shifted over the years. He also looks at how the younger generations now, more than ever, want to identify with their Japanese roots.

While a well researched and constructed film, the element that really makes this film special is its use of animation. Stearns, an animator by profession, enlisted a slew of animators to give the film its unique look. Every artist received a different segment of the film to work on and designed it in the style they preferred. The film is really a visual treat to watch. One of the highlights is the chalkboard sequence that Stearns himself creates. It serves as a great way to digest all the historical information is woven into the film.

Uplifting without being preachy, One Big Hapa Family reaffirms it is the ones we love who truly define us and not our individual ethnicities. 


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Toilet Key to Cleansing the System

Toilet


The problem with family is that you cannot choose them; you have to deal with the hand that life deals you. Japanese director Naoko Ogigami explores this theme in her comedy about a dysfunctional family trying to bridge cultural and generational gaps.

After the death of his mother, Ray (Alex House) finds himself back in the family home with anxiety stricken brother, Maury (David Rendall) and his judgmental sister, Lisa (Tatiana Mazurani). If trying to live with each other was not stressful enough, the siblings also have to adjust to sharing the house with their baa-chan (aka. Grandmother) who they hardly know. To complicate matters baa-chan (Masako Motai) does not speak a word of English, and often lets out a heavy sigh whenever she leaves the washroom. Ray’s desire to get away from his family, and his concerns of whether baa-chan is actually related to them, leads to a discovery that will ultimately alter his perception regarding the importance of family.

Judging by how packed the theatre was at the screening, Toilet was one of the most anticipated films at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. I think this was due to the fact that the comedy, and themes, in the film have broad appeal. The story in Toilet is one that is common in dysfunctional family films, I would even go as far to say that the plot is rather predictable. Yet, that does not mean Toilet is not worth seeing. In fact Toilet, while not groundbreaking, tells its story very well. The script is extremely well written and the quirky humour never misses a beat. 


The cast is the real hidden gem of this film. They help to ensure that, despite their individual quirks, the audience is always able to identify with the characters. I was really impressed with the performances of the three leads and their chemistry with the non-English speaking Motai. It is easy to forget that they are actors and not a real family, which is always a wonderful thing to achieve in film. Even supporting characters such as Ray’s co-worker Agni (Gabe Grey) and Lisa’s love interest Billy (Steven Yaffee) make an impact in their brief time on screen.

Naoko Ogigami also deserves much praise for highlighting the subtle beauty of the streets of Toronto. While the film does not overtly show its Toronto roots, as the film is suppose to takes place in an unnamed US city, it is nice to see the Toronto landscape captured in such a unique way. The acting coupled with Ogigami’s experienced direction really makes Toilet a feel good crowd-pleaser which is something we all need every now and then.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reel Asian Announces Audience Award Winner

The Reel Asian Film Festival announced the winner of the Reel Asian Audience Award today. Here is the full list of award winners:


2010 REEL ASIAN AWARD WINNERS:

REEL ASIAN AUDIENCE AWARD
All feature films at the festival were eligible for this prize. The favourite feature film was chosen by the audience by secret ballot. ($500 cash prize)

The Reel Asian Audience Award goes to Naoko Ogigami for TOILET.

An independent jury comprised of distinguished members of the media arts community selected this year’s award winners. The Features Jury consisted of Jari Osborne, Marina Di Pancrazio, Darcy Murphy.

ASTRAL’S HAROLD GREENBERG FUND BEST FEATURE FILM OR VIDEO AWARD
All feature works were eligible for this prize. ($1,000 cash prize)

"This story of a beloved country doctor disguises itself as a gentle comedy before revealing itself as a provocative argument for the morality of an honorable lie." – Jari Osborne

The Astral’s Harold Greenberg Fund Best Feature Film Award goes to Miwa Nishikawa for DEAR DOCTOR (Japan, 2009)

The Shorts Jury consisted of Randall Okita, Paul Wong, and Mishann Lau.

NFB BEST CANADIAN FILM OR VIDEO AWARD
All Canadian works were eligible for this prize. ($2,500 production budget prize towards the development of winner's next project)

“The award goes out to an extraordinary work that combines home-movies, history and first person accounts. it is a journey of self-discovery that includes the voices of 4 generations of a Canadian family. Written, directed and edited by the filmmaker, he has taken the particular and has made it universal in both form and content.” – Paul Wong

The NFB Best Canadian Award goes to Jeff Chiba Stearns for ONE BIG HAPA FAMILY

WIFT-T AWARD
All films made by female GTA-based artists were eligible for this prize. ($1,200 programming pass, one-year membership and mentorship from WIFT-T and $1,000 rental credit at Videoscope.)

“This award goes to a feminist story that takes the viewer on an emotional and honest journey in which the filmmaker confronts her motherʼs veiled past.” ¬– Mishann Lau¬

THE WIFT-T AWARD goes to Jane Kim for SEEING THROUGH THE SPIDERʼS WEB (Canada, 2009)

TRINITY SQUARE VIDEO VISIONARY VIDEO AWARD
All videos made by GTA-based artists are eligible for this prize. ($650 in TSV membership dues and services, $100 cash prize upon completion of new work made at Trinity Square Video.)

“This award goes to an important, timely work that freshly illuminated historical, political and personal struggles and brought a brilliant combination of research and innovation into the process of reclaiming our history.” ¬ – Randall Okita

The TSV Visionary award goes to Lesley Loksi Chan for REDRESS REMIX (Canada, 2010)

ANIMASIAN AWARD
All animated films and videos were eligible for this prize. The award was innitiated by director/animator Ann Marie Fleming, and is continues to grow as animators and animation lovers across the country make contributions to the growth and future of the award. ($500 cash prize)

“Combining multiple techniques, this filmmakerʼs first film has a strong and original approach both technically and conceptually, tackling a complex issue with the lightness of freshly fallen Snow.” – Mishann Lau

The ANIMASION AWARD goes to Su-An Ng for NATURE ON ITʼS COURSE (Canada, 2009)

LIFT AND FUJI BEST FILM AWARD
All films made by GTA-based artists were eligible for this prize. ($280 in LIFT membership dues and services, $500 credit towards LIFT equipment and facility rentals, workshops and courses, 5 rolls of Fuji 16mm film.)

“This award goes to a wonderfully rendered love letter to familial sacrifice and the struggle of new Canadian families.” – Randall Okita

The LIFT and Fuji best film award goes to Gloria Kim for THE AUCTION

MOVIEOLA BEST SHORT FILM OR VIDEO AWARD
All short films are eligible. ($300 cash prize and opportunity for broadcast on Movieola.)

“The award goes to a crash-bang distillation of pop genres. It is a seamless mash-up of live-action, drama, anime and manga that tells a classic story of revenge and poetic justice in which violence is deftly handled.” – Paul Wong

The Movieola Best Short Award goes to director Sol Friedman for JUNKOʼS SHAMISEN

THE SO YOU THINK YOU CAN PITCH? AWARDS

This year’s pitch competition was a public event hosted by local artist Keith Cole. An audience of over 100 watched as 7 teams competed for more than $28,000 in services from Charles Street Video. The winners were chosen by the panel of jurors: Nobu Adilman, Eileen Arandiga, and Lila Karim.

CHARLES STREET VIDEO AND REEL ASIAN PITCH PROFESSIONAL ARTIST AWARD
The award winners receive $1,500 (cash), and a $5,000 production package from Charles Street Video (equivalent to $18,000 at industry rental rates).

The Pitch Professional Artist Award goes to Tricia Lee (Director), Ryan Reaney (Producer) for SEARCHING FOR WONDER

Synopsis: When a 12-year-old child prodigy, who lives in an adult world, discovers magic, he experiences a feeling of wonder which he has never felt before and goes on a journey to find what is missing in his life.

CHARLES STREET VIDEO AND REEL ASIAN PITCH EMERGING ARTIST AWARD
The award winners receive $1,500 (cash), and a $3,000 production package from Charles Street Video (equivalent to $10,000 at Industry rental rates).

The Pitch EMERGING ARTIST AWARD goes to Shahrzad Nakhai (Producer/Director) for SUGAR BOWL

Sypnosis: Sugar Bowl is a poetic portrayal of Negros Island, Philippines. Through a chorus of voices we hear the tragic story of its sugar cane industry through eras of Spanish and American colonization. Sugar Bowl crafts an eerie story of people living in the past and struggling to keep things as they once were.

The Mountain Thief Finds Treasure In Trash

The Mountain Thief

The phrase I most often hear when discussing world issues is “we need to fix our own house before we worry about helping others across the world.” While true in certain cases, this form of logic is often used as an excuse to do nothing at all. Yet after seeing The Mountain Thief, I fully believe that, if you live in North America, “our house” is nowhere near as broken as some will have you believe.

Set in the Payatas area of Manila, a section of the Philippines known for being the world’s largest garbage-collecting settlement, The Mountain Thief is a fictional tale created out of a real life issue. After fleeing the war-torn south region of the Philippines, Julio and his handicapped son Igo settle in Payatas hoping to make enough money to return home when the war is over. In the poverty stricken Payatas, Julio and his boy work as scavengers on the mountain of garbage collecting anything that can be turned in for cash (e.g. bottles, cans, scrap irons, etc.). Julio’s presence, and rising popularity, threatens Ato’s chances for becoming the next leader of the region. Ato claims to be a man of the bible, yet many believe that he is actually insane. Ato has never been the same since his mother was buried alive beneath the trash. The tension between Julio and Ato boils over with horrific consequences.

The Mountain Thief is one of the few films in recent years that actually brought me close to tears. I still get choked up a bit when I reflect on it. This is not due to the story itself per say, but the folks who were involved with the making of it. Director Gerry Balasta casts real life scavengers from the region to star in his film. At the end of the film Balasta provides brief bios for this cast. It is heart-wrenching to see that most of the actors have been scavengers since the age of 10 or 12 years-old. They were born into the life and have had to make the best of the situation. Many are saving up to afford things that we take for granted in North America, such as education and medical care. Two of the boys featured in the film had never had a medical examination until Gerry Balasta and his team help to raise money via the internet.


The thing that impressed me the most about the film was how Balasta managed to get such strong performances from his inexperienced cast. While there are a few uneven moments here and there, the overall job by the cast is far better than you would expect from amateurs. Part of this is due to Balasta choice to tell the story from each characters point of view. Not only does it give the actors just enough screen but it also enhances the overall impact of the story. The film jumps from character to character to fill in the missing gaps in the story. Only the glue sniffing thief Simon knows what is truly going on in the area. The lack of information residing in the other characters leads to dire results. One of the most tense scenes arrives when Julio contemplates doing the unthinkable. Gerry Balasta draws out this sequence as long as possible to keep us, the viewer on edge.

To emphasis the decay of Payatas, Gerry Balasta film occasionally has a burnt look to it. This really gives the sense that the viewer is wading through the trash just like the main characters. Balasta uses a softer lens when he focuses on the children’s perspective of things. This technique not only provides an angelic feel but also gives an overall sense of hope. Whether or not the conditions in Payatas will ever be fixed is anyone’s guess. Which is why a film like The Mountain Thief is so important; it sheds light on an issue that most of us could never imagine having to live in. The Mountain Thief is a film that is not to be missed.

For more information about the living conditions of Payatas visit the films website www.mountainthief.com and the Facebook site.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Oxhide II’s Dumplings A Family Recipe

Oxhide II


If your family happens to be like mine then most of the family gatherings occur around food. No matter how big the house may be, everyone always seems to find their way to the kitchen. The communal aspect that food provides is just as important in my family as the food that is actually being served. The importance of food and family is essential to understanding director Liu Jaiyin’s film Oxhide II.

Continuing her examination of her tight-knit family, first seen in Oxhide, Jiayin’s latest film highlights how the simple act of making dumplings for dinner is a communal act. Everyone takes turns helping to prepare different stages of the meal. Liu herself often struggles to master the techniques that her parents make look so easy. While the family works on the dumplings Liu's father ask the family for input on the issues surrounding his failing leatherwork business. Despite being in a cramped room, the simple act of making a meal together is a vital part of the family bonding experience.

While Oxhide II is an intimate look at the rituals that brings family together, it is also a bit of an endurance test. Unlike most films, that have numerous edits and camera angles, Oxhide II only features nine different shot. The entire film takes place around the workbench of Liu’s father. The camera is mounted in one position for a lengthy period of time until it is time to move to the next shot. Since the whole film only has nine different angles it leads to long sections of time where not much happens on screen. For example, there are moments where the only thing the audience sees is her father silently cutting meat. By only having nine shots in the film, there is a good portion of the film in which Liu and her family are not fully on screen. Depending on which angle that the camera is positioned, the audience can only see an arm here, a torso there, etc. While it is interesting from an artistic standpoint, it does become a bit annoying when trying to get a better understanding of what is occurring outside the frame. There are times when characters are preparing something in an area that is not fully in the camera’s view. As a result the audience never truly gets to immerse themselves in the process.


Regardless, Oxhide II is more about the intimate family interaction than it is a lesson in dumpling making. The majority of the humour in the film comes from the verbal back and forth when it comes to comparing who incorporates the best dumpling making techniques. In one amusing scene the parents debate how long to cut the chives. The father estimates it should be about four millimetres or so, yet when it is Liu’s turn to cut the chives she actual runs to get a ruler to ensure that her cuts are exact. Her need to be precise ends up slowing down the whole process.

Oxhide II is a film that has much to offer once you get past the lengthy takes between shots. Still, with only nine shots, the film will test your patience as much as it will build your appetite.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival Daily Picks November 14, 2010

Here are your Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival best bets for today. For the full list of films, tickets, and showtimes, visit www.reelasian.com.



So You Think You Can Pitch? Live Finale (Industry Series)

Dear Doctor (Screening)

NSI Industry Reception (Industry Series)

One Big Hapa Family (Screening)

Au Revoir Taipei (Screening)

Closing Night Gala Party (Special Event)

Sharing the Blogging Love




Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?


Here is Your Reading Schedule for Today:

10 am: The 13th episode of the Movie Moxie podcast is now up.

11 am: Daniel thinks that Richard Dreyfuss deserves more respect as an actor and uses Let it Ride to prove his point.

12 pm: Want to know what it is like to experience the Reel Asian Film Fest? Look no further than the festival’s blog.

1 pm: Uncle Jasper reviews the awesomeness of Blind Fury.

2 pm: Dempsey gives us the 411 on the latest superhero movie news.

3 pm: Edgar reviews The Wicker Man. Thankfully he is discussing the original and not the Nic Cage version.

4 pm: While I try to avoid having the same sites listed two weeks in a row, it is hard to keep Mad Hatter off this list when he finds time to chat with an Oscar winner.

5 pm: Joseph gives top marks to Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours.

6 pm: Movie Mobsters look at the top five bond villains.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

On the Flip Side Life is Far More Interesting

On the Flip Side


On The Flip Side is a collection of short films made by, or featuring, Asian Canadians. It featured everything from a drag queen musical to a Fresh Prince of Bel Air dance off. Here are my brief thoughts on the short films that were screened at the Reel Asian International Film Festival.

Exit Upon Arrival – Dir. Paul Wong
The short featured a split screen in which we see the director Paul Wong entering and exiting through a door. The film is manipulated in such a way that it creates a revolving door effect. Depending on which screen you watch, Paul will either be entering, leaving, walking in reverse, etc. Normally I am not a fan of installation works, yet I could still appreciate the artistic merit of the film.

Wind + Snow – Dir. Leslie Supnet
Similar to the first film this was another artistic piece. The film featured scenes with horses and elks running in the wild, a woman skipping over rope, rainbows, etc. Oddly enough I really enjoyed the meditative nature of the film. I probably missed some of the symbolism but everyone will take away something different from the film.

Covers – Dir. Jenny Lin
This animated tale centres around a reclusive dominatrix, Covers, who is abducted one night. Covers is subjected to weird acts, even by fetish standards, for the amusement of her mysterious kidnapper. The first two acts are the film’s best. The perverse humour really shines during these parts. The film loses its focus a bit in the final act. Still, it is tough to deny Covers' quirky charm.


Film Concerto In Hanging Major – Dir. Meelad Moaphi
Hands down this was my favourite of the night. The film is a how-to guide of sorts for those contemplating suicide. A bird-man creature is about to hang himself when he is presented with five option (e.g. jumping, wrist cutting, shooting himself, etc). Each option comes with facts regarding the success rate and the proper way to do it. Inspired by an opera, the Magic Flute, Meelad Moaphi’s film uses humour to examine a serious topic.

A Dragged Out Affair: The Musical – Dir. Sonia Hong, Olga Barsky, Claire Lowery
Winners of last year’s edition of the festival’s So You Think You Can Pitch contest, the directors turned their winnings into this entertaining musical about forbidden love. The plot focuses on two rival drag queens that fall in love with each other. The problem is that this type of love is considered a huge taboo amongst the drag queen community. The extremely funny film features outstanding songs, wonderful costumes, and good set designs. The film could easily be turned into a feature or a theatrical show ala Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Hopefully the songs will be available for download in the near future.

Window Horses (Karaoke Projec) – Dir. Ann Marie Fleming
Created by award-winning writer Ann Marie Fleming this witty animated short features a Stickgirl singing about the horses she sees outside of her window. The horses represent beauty, simplicity, stability, and strength in this crazy world. Yet for some reason things like the horse’s teeth remind Stickgirl of her dad. This was another film where I found myself wishing there was an iTunes version of the song. I could listen to it all day.


Peggy Baker: Four Phases – Dir. Howie Shia
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) produced this film for the 2009 Governor General’s Performing Arts Award which dancer Peggy Baker was the recipient. The short uses four different animation and documentary techniques to help convey how movement has shaped Baker’s life. This is a beautiful film that perfectly captures how the human body can say so much through the smallest of gestures.

You can view this short for free on the NFB website.

6 on 6 Battle – Dir. Tadaaki Hozumi
Through the use of a few well selected avi files, and a series of media players, Tadaaki Hozumi takes a look at the cultural stereotypes commonly associated with dancing. The film incorporates everything from clips of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air to George Bush dancing in Africa. Hozumi’s film is both entertaining and thought provoking as it points out how racial stereotypes are widely accepted in mainstream culture.

The Auction – Dir. Gloria Kim
Here is another example of a short that could easily be expanded into a feature film. The Auction is about a Korean girl who wants an expensive doll for Christmas. Unfortunately her immigrant parents have fallen on tough times financial and can only afford a skipping rope. While the film is designed to show the Korean immigrant experience, the themes are universal. I could identify with many of the issues raised in the film. The performances are great and the film manages to be touching without being overly sentimental.

Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival Daily Picks November 13, 2010

Here are your Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival best bets for today. For the full list of films, tickets, and showtimes, visit www.reelasian.com/.


Animation Master Class with Koji Yamamura (Industry Series)

Koji Yamamura: Mastery of the Form (Screening)

Scriptwriting Workshop: Taking the Leap From Shorts to Features (Industry Series)

All About NSI (Industry Series)

Oxhide II (Screening)

Love and Daydreaming In Taipei: Artist Talk with Arvin Chen (Industry Series)

The Mountain Thief (Screening)

Toilet (Screening)

Eighteen (Screening)

Rice Dreams: A Night of Asian Pop Psychedelia (Special Events)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival Daily Picks November 12, 2010

Here are your Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival best bets for today. For the full list of films, tickets, and showtimes, visit www.reelasian.com/.



Drawing The Art of Hand & Foot (Industry Series)

Filmmakers in an Ad World (Industry Series)

Behind The Scenes – Business & Legal Affairs to Remember (Industry Series)

RMB City (New Media & Installations)

RMB City (Special Events)

Suite Suite Chinatown (Screening)

Karaoke Party (Special Events)

Golden Slumber (Screening)

Home is Where the Heartbreak Is

Home

Each year on November 11th we take a moment to reflect on the people who took part in both World Wars, and how their sacrifices made our current freedom possible. We also use that day to remember the atrocities that mankind has inflicted upon each other and strive to ensure it never happens again. The shocking thing is these atrocities are still happening on a daily basis in places that most of the world turns a blind eye to.

Armed with nothing more than a camera, and a desire to bring the plights of the Burmese people to the global conscious, director Desiree Lim went to Malaysia to document what was going on with the refugee situation over there. What she uncovers in her documentary, Home, is a horrific account of violence and corruption that has infested every single aspect of Malaysian society.

Home examines how Burmese refugees flee the violent rule of the military junta for the safer lands of Malaysia and Thailand. Yet once they have reached these places, the Burmese refugees are subject to a whole other level of corruption and violence that they could have never imagined. Immigration agencies such as RELA routinely blackmail the refugees with threats of deportation. They are also unable to obtain the proper paperwork needed to start a new life so many must work illegally. This not only subjects them to police brutality, but physical, mental and sexual abuse as well. Many of the women are either raped by their employers or are sold to human traffickers, while the men are forced to work on fishing boats where their survival rate is slim at best.

What is really disturbing about all of this is how much Malaysia relies on the illegal immigrants for their infrastructure. There are now over three million Burmese refugees working in Malaysia. They keep all the various businesses, especially the food industry, running. Even the Burmese who have landed legally are not exempt from the corruption. The military junta have deals with Malaysia and Thailand which enforces that all Burmese workers in those lands have to pay a 10% tax off their paychecks. The money collected from this tax would go straight back to military junta. This essentially ensures the revolving door of corruption goes on as those who refuse the tax, or are working illegally and cannot pay the blackmail fees, are sent back to Burma.


The film is broken up into two parts, though only one is truly successful. The first half of the film is a drama in which Desiree Lim enlists one of the refugees, Roi Roi, to help reenact some of the stories that came out of Lim’s conversations with the refugees. This section nearly kills the film in my opinion, as the untrained actors do not convey the range needed for this type of tale. To be honest, I was getting ready to write the film off by time the credits rolled on the first segment.

Luckily I stuck with the film because the second half, the documentary section, is what truly makes this film work. All the emotion that was missing from the first segment is on display here. It is both mesmerizing and heartbreaking to hear the refugees, some of which whom cannot show their face on camera, recount the horrors that they have lived through up to this point. Whether it is the pastor living in the jungle, the mother taking care of both bedridden husband and their four kids, the woman degraded and abuse by female soldiers, or the human rights advocate discussing the obstacles she faces, they all have the same devastating impact.

Home does not provide any answers, which is not surprising considering that this is an issue that is much more complex than you could even imagine. Yet Home is a film that more people really need to see and discuss. The world cannot continue to turn a blind eye on this issue.

For more information on this subject please be sure to visit www.projecthomemalaysia.com and the Facebook page Desiree Lim has set up.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival Daily Picks November 11, 2010

Here are your Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival best bets for today. For the full list of films, tickets, and showtimes, visit www.reelasian.com.


Reel Asian Docs: Engage, Collaborate, Create (Industry Series)

Pastiche with A Purpose – Revivals and Revisions and Revisions of Hong Kong Martial Arts (Industry Series)

On the Flip Side (Screening)

Bi, Don’t Be Afraid! (Screening)

Gallants Kicks the Laughs Into High Gear

Gallants

The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival kicked into gear with the screening of the kung fu comedy Gallants on Tuesday night. If film festivals were judged solely on their opening night films then the Reel Asian Film Fest would already be considered a success. Not only did the film deliver on the chopsocky laughs, but it also set the stage for the quality of films to be expected over the next seven days.

Directed by Clement Cheng and Derek Kwok, with Hong Kong film star Andy Lau serving as executive producer, Gallants is a homage to the Shaw Brothers kung fu classics of the ‘70s. The film follows Cheung (Yue-Nam Wong), a spineless real estate agent, as he tries to secure property rights for his company. Through a series of unfortunate events, Cheung stumbles upon a tea house run by two old martial artists, Tiger (Bruce Leung) and Dragon (Chen Kuan-Tai). The tea house was once a mighty martial arts school before it fell on hard times. With their teacher, Mast Law (Teddy Robin), in a coma for the past three decades, Tiger and Dragon are pressured by a rival gym boss, Master Pong (Wai-man Chan), and his assistant, Mang (Jin Auyeung aka MC Jin), to hand over the lease to the tea house. Mang also has a personal score to settle with Chueng that stems back to their childhood days. Miraculously Master Law awakens from his coma and decides to enter Tiger, Dragon, and Cheung in Master Pong’s fighting tournament. The competition will ultimately decide their fate, and that of the tea house, once and for all.

Shot in a mere 18 days, the fact that Gallants consistently hits the mark in regards to both comedy and action is a testament to the hard work from all involved in making the film. Directors Clement Cheng and Derek Kwok take great care to ensure that Gallants is not just a nod to kung fu films of the past, but a film that also stands on its own as well. No matter how screwball the comedy gets at times, the story never suffers. Cheng and Kwok ensure that every aspect of the plot ties together. Even miniscule elements, such as the running gag involving a preserved roasted duck, never feel out of place in the film.


Gallants is one of the rare modern action comedies where style does not overshadow the film. For example, the use of animation is subtle and effective. As is the film’s use of character introduction titles, sound effects, and voiceovers that are scattered throughout the film. I was pleasantly surprised by Cheng and Kwok’s restraint when it came to the fight scenes. Most modern directors rely heavily on quick edits to enhance the action, yet Gallants let the action speak for itself. When fights occur, the audience is able to fully observe the fluid moves, and years of experience, that Bruce Leung and Chen Kuan-Tai bring to the picture.

Speaking of Bruce Leung and Chen Kuan-Tai, their comedic timing is almost as flawless as their martial art moves. They consistently keep the humour level high even during the occasional times where the films pacing slows down. The only person who is able to match Leung and Kaun-Tai’s performances is Teddy Robin, who is wonderful as the womanizing Master Law. Teddy Robin manages to steal almost every scene he is in. Whether he is confusing Cheung with two other people at the same time, hitting on women, or partying in shady bars, Robin’s Master Law frequently garners huge laughs from the audience.

Although some will compare the film to the equally entertaining Kung Fu Hustle, Gallants is a film that successfully carves out its own path. Gallants is a film that offers both satisfying action and laugh out loud comedy.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival Daily Picks November 10, 2010

Here are your Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival best bets for today. For the full list of films, tickets, and showtimes, visit http://www.reelasian.com/.



Redress Remix (Screening)

Reel Asian Speed-Dating (Industry Series)

Days of Rain (Screening)

The Next Wave of Careers: What’s Next? (Industry Series)

Home (Screening)

Dooman River (Screening)

Red’s Meagre Comedy Left Me Blue

Red

I never thought I would say this but I am tired of comic book inspired movies. As an avid comic book reader I should love Hollywood’s desire to adapt everything under the sun to the big screen, but I just cannot sit through the junk anymore. The Walking Dead series has shown that graphic novels are better suited for television format than they are for feature films. A television series allows time to properly develop plot and characters; both of which are often lacking in film adaptations. This is most evident when watching films such as Red.

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is a retired C.I.A. operative who spends most of his days on the phone chatting up Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a customer service representative. Without warning Frank is targeted for extermination by the same agency he once served. In order to figure out who is behind all of this, Frank enlists the help of his former team (Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, and John Malkovich). Although removed from the front lines for several years, Frank and his pals are about to teach the new breed of C.I.A., including William Cooper (Karl Urban), that whole habits die hard.

Red is one of those action comedies that exist on the sole premise that it is funny to watch old people shooting big guns. Unfortunately, the one-note joke becomes old rather fast. Once you get pass this point there is not much that the film actually offers. It is merely a string of action set pieces held together by the odd one-liners here and there.


While it is fun at times to see the likes of Mirren and Malkovich channelling their inner action hero, there is nothing that really bonds you to the characters. Everyone is fairly one dimensional, more than you would have expected from this type of film. Malkovich is the weird paranoid one, Willis is the love struck action hero, Mirren is the cool and deadly killer, etc. Half the time you end up questioning why Willis even needed to pull the whole team together in the first place? Morgan Freeman’s Joe is the most useless character in the whole bunch. His only real purpose is to show that legends should not rot away in a retirement home.

Even when Red tries to provide some depth, via the loved story between Frank and Sarah, the film falls flat. It is very telling when the brief love arc between Helen Mirren’s Victoria and Brian Cox’s Ivan is far more interesting than one of Frank and Sarah relationships around which the film centres. The subplots do not fair any better. The information regarding William Cooper’s family life is not enough to explain his actions in the latter half of the film. Also the whole storyline between the characters portrayed by Richard Dreyfuss and Julian McMahon is never properly developed and feels tacked on in the end.

Red is a film that entertains in short spurts but ultimately does not offer anything that will not be forgotten once you leave theatres.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival Daily Picks November 9, 2010

The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival kicks off tonight! The opening night film, Gallants, will be screening at the Bloor Cinema. For tickets and showtimes visit http://www.reelasian.com/

I Saw the Devil and He’s A Gruesome Sight

I Saw the Devil

In Korea revenge is a dish best served bloody. If the mention of film titles such as Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, or Lady Vengeance evoke a smile across your face than I Saw the Devil should be right up your alley. If you have not seen any of the aforementioned Korean revenge flicks then you are in for a real treat.

Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik) is a school bus driver by day and serial killer by night. Unbeknownst to Kyung-chul, his latest victim was not only the daughter of a police chief but also the fiancé of a top secret agent on the force, Joo-yeon (Lee Byung-hun). Determined to avenge his loss, Joo-yeon sets out to give Kyung-chul a taste of the same hellish nightmare he inflicts on his victims. Before long the hunter becomes the prey and the lines between good and evil become increasingly blurred.

I Saw the Devil may not bring anything new to the revenge genre but it is still provides a great adrenaline rush. By exploring the nature of revenge, director Kim Ji-Woon is able to continually up the stakes for the main characters of his film. In order to catch a gruesome killer, Joo-yeon must essentially become a monster himself. Through this Ji-Woon questions whether there can truly be a winner in the game of revenge. Once Joo-yeon crosses that fine line he is no longer any different than Kyung- chul.

Kim Ji-Woon successfully gets this point across through the terrific work of his two leading men. Choi Min-sik continues his string of blistering performances as Kyung-chul. Min-sik brings so much life to the character that he manages to be both menacing and entertaining at the same time. Lee Byung-hun nicely offsets Min-siks work with his cool and calculated approach to Joo-yeon. He assumes that he is the one in control, but is in over his head deeper than he can even imagine. This is especially evident in the scene where Joo-yeon must battle both Kyung-chul and two other deranged individuals in an unfamiliar house.


I Saw the Devil also offers an interesting commentary on how different cultures view violence in cinema. TIFF screened the version of I Saw the Devil that was originally banned in Korea. The film was edited for its Korean release. The odd thing is that the cuts that were made for the Korean release are miniscule compared to what was left in the film. Apparently the idea of someone eating a meal made out of human remains is more disturbing than a knife through the jaw. Regardless of which version of the film you see. I Saw the Devil features plenty of edge of your seat thrills and gruesome chills to satisfy. 

Monday, November 08, 2010

Movie Marketing Monday

Friends with Benefits

Timberlake, Kunis, Clarkson, Harrelson and a reference to Semisonic’s hit “Closing Time”...where do I sign up?




The Zookeeper

Why do I get the feeling the pitch for this film started with: “Think of Night at the Museum but in a zoo...”

Friday, November 05, 2010

Sharing the Blogging Love



As I am trying to get rid of this awful cold, I thought I would highlight some of the things other bloggers have been discussing this week(which I really need to do on a more regular basis!).

Here is Your Reading Schedule for Today:

10 am: Mad Hatter wrote an eloquent piece on the recent changing of the guard over at The LAMB.

11 am: Thevoid99 reviews the Criterion edition of The Leopard.

12 pm: The Action Flick Chick sits down with Cory Feldman and chats about Lost Boys 3!

1 pm: SugaryCynic tries to wrap her head around Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

2 pm: Univarn looks at why studios still try and fool moviegoers with “the film everyone is talking about” tagline.

3 pm: Sasha talks about one of the pleasant surprises for me at this year’s TIFF, The High Cost of Living. Which reminds me, I should probably get around to writing my thoughts on the film...

4 pm: Clara reviews the book “Chasing Carole” which discusses the life of actress Carole Lombard.

5 pm: Castor spends sometime in The Hot Tube Time Machine and gives us his thoughts.

6 pm: Live for Film has the privately funded, post-apocalyptic spaghetti western, Snowblind on their site. The interesting thing that the creators of the film are giving it away for free online.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Social Network Makes Stalking Acceptable

The Social Network

David Fincher’s latest film, The Social Network has been called both a “masterpiece” and “the film that defines a generation.”  Once you get pass the initial hype, and the tendency for critics and bloggers to go gaga over everything Fincher touches, it becomes clear that these associations are not quite true.  While The Social Network is one of the better films to hit theatres this year, it is the Facebook application itself and not the movie that will be remembered in the history books.

After being dumped by his girlfriend Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) takes to his blog and trashes her character over cyberspace.  This leads to the idea of creating a website that allows students to rank all of the female students on campus.  An instant hit amongst the students, Mark’s program end ups crashing the Harvard computer system.  While this raises the ire of both the school faculty and the female students, it also brings Mark to the attention of twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer).  The Winklevoss twins approach Zuckerberg about creating a Havard version of MySpace.  Although Zuckerberg agrees to help them with their project, Zuckerberg ends up working on his own website, The Facebook, with the aid of his best friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield).  Soon The Facebook becomes a global hit and Zuckerberg not only finds himself meeting the likes of Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the brains behind Napster, but also finds himself in the middle of multiple lawsuits.

While the film looks at the creation of Facebook, The Social Network is a legal drama first and foremost.  The film looks at the question of ownership in today’s society.  In one scene Zuckerberg makes a great point where he questions if someone who makes a nice chair, must they pay everyone who has ever made a chair before them.  Fincher never picks a side on the issue of who actually created Facebook, he merely lets the evidence play out and forces the audience to decide for themselves.


The interesting thing about this movie is that the hero is actually the villain.  Although Zuckerberg is clearly a genius in regards to the way his brain functions, he is far from a likeable person.  He is socially awkward and wants desperately to be a part of everything he despises mainly because it is what the cool people do.  In fact, all the major developments in the film stem from Zuckerberg’s childish habits.  Erica even remarks to Mark, although it could really apply to bloggers as well, that writing crude comments online is what angry people do in the dark.  Although the lawsuits involve millions of dollars, Fincher makes a point to remind us that, at the end of the day, the participants are still immature boys looking to impress the opposite sex.  

The Social Network has more to say about the nature of mixing friendship and business than it actually does about the impact of Facebook on today’s society.  Some of the best moments in the film are found in the tension between Sean and Eduardo.  Sean is the cool kid that Mark wants to be.  Sean not only talks the talk but has the vision and the experience to back it up.  Eduardo on the other hand is the loyal friend whose school taught approach to business limits his imagination in regards to how big Facebook can actually be.

The performances in the film are outstanding.  The Social Network features one of the best works from an ensemble cast you will find all year.  The performances coupled with Aaron Sorkin’s brilliantly written script and David Fincher’s stellar visual eye packs a big punch.   My only knock on the film is that, since it is primarily a legal drama, The Social Network never looks at the effects Zuckerberg’s creation has on society.  The program was designed to bring people together online, yet it is actually alienating people from each other in the real world.  What I mean by this is that people connect less now face to face, as everything from making plans to sharing stories is done online.  It is this reason why I have problems with the whole “the movie defines a generation” chant some are spewing.  It is a great film but not one that really impacts society the way you hope it would.  Still, as far as legal dramas go, The Social Network is one of the best.