Monthly Archives: October 2015

Movie Inspired Halloween Costumes

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I adore the movie Up and have nothing but warm fuzzy feelings for these costume ideas – particularly loving the baby as the grumpy old guy. Bowties are awesome.

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Wes Anderson costumes? I can’t even. I love how binoculars are NOT optional in these ones inspired by Moonrise Kingdom.

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Kinda love the Fantastic Mr. Fox ones, but really, how long would I last in a fox head? And how would I eat all the cheese ball?

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I think it’s sweet when mom and dad get in on the action. I love these Lego Movie inspired costumes but I’d be really hesitant to stick my head in a sweat head piece for any length of time. I think these two below are very cute to do a Lego Movie homage without any evidence Lego pieces.

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This is the sweetest little Edward Scissorhands I’ve ever seen. I love the plastic knives!

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Zomg, love this! Genius to put baby Marty McFly into his DeLorean…and now you’ve taken care of the problem of this kid not being up for much walking at the same time! Way to go, parent who spent a whole lot of time on this!

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Seriously, this kid probably has no idea who he is for Halloween but it’ll get a smile from all the grown-ups.

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This The Shining costume is pretty inspired, and he does have a passing resemblance to Jack Nicholson, don’t you think?

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I admire the commitment of this Corpse Bride. But doesn’t she look kind of sad?

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This group of gals has pretty ably recreated the cover photo of Bridesmaids. That’s a lot of pink dresses! Think they also wore them to prom?

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I totally approve of this Wilson costume from Castaway. Now all you need is the perfect accessory – an emaciated Tom Hanks (also: brownie points for a woman in a non-slutty costume!).

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I only know enough about Harry Potter to say this must be a reference to one of those movies. The three-headed dog is a nice touch if your pooch will allow such an indignity.

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I hope he has some Reese’s Pieces in his pockets. Seriously, that shit is like crack to me. I would definitely follow a guy into his basement if he left a trail of those.

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Wayne & Garth have never looked so cute.

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So I’m dying. We were obsesed with Labyrinth growing up. I like that she even has a David Bowie. Swoon.

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Does this take the cuteness cake? Who you gonna call?

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Ghostbusters!

 

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Do you think these kids have any idea who Napoleon Dynamite even is? That movie came out before they were born! You used to only be able to do this to dogs because kids have minds of their own, but I guess now it’s fair game to dress your kids to suit your own in-jokes. Speaking of which…

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I want to believe that this dog is a really big fan of The Little Mermaid.

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In a perfect world, I would have had my dogs suit up in Pixar’s Inside Out costumes. It’s fairly easy to dole out the characters: Gertie would of course be Joy, because she has a constant heart of happiness. Herbie would be Anger because he’s the boss and he relishes being surly. Fudgie would be fear because he’s such a neurotic little guy. And Bronx would be sadness because although he’s actually a bubbly, playful guy, he has weirdly sad eyes. Which leaves Disgust for yours truly (a fitting moniker, I assure you) and Sean could be Bing Bong, the big guy who smells like cotton candy. But the truth is, you might also call me Lazy and Inept because I could never get my shit together in order to pull that off. So here are my guys in their store-bought,

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This cowpoke is Herbie. He’s the alpha but he leads mostly benignly.

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Herbie is aloof but he puts on a good show for company. He’s also a closet cuddle bug. Gertie, on the other hand, is very up-front about wanting to get close to you. You can’t escape the kisses.

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She’s definitely our princess – the unicorn costume she didn’t pull off quite as convincingly. She was a bit too fluffy, which is a constant challenge for our gray girl.

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Fudgie wasn’t very into being a shark either. Although, to be fair, Halloween makes Fudgie very tired. Too tired to be a very menacing dragon.

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He did make a pretty cute pirate though. He’s one of those super happy fun-time pirates that you hear so much about.

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And this is Bronx. See what I mean about his eyes? Saddest chicken ever. Or maybe it’s because he knows he’s wearing a hand me down.

So what was your best Halloween costume? Any famous movie characters?

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Why It’s Fun To Be Scared… Sometimes

This week, Jay and I have challenged our colleagues and readers to confront their deepest and darkest fears with Frightfest 2015: The Horror Festival for the Squeamish. In the comment section, DotedOn thanked me kindly for the recommendations but admitted that she would likely be skipping each of them.

I still can’t get why people enjoy being scared. It’s like the idea of getting a root canal treatment by a butcher, I can’t even think about it.

I share her comment because I enjoyed it but also because i didn’t know what to tell her. Why halloween_1978_stilldo I enjoy scary movies? The truth is, I don’t usually. I have the same reaction to most horror trailers (“I’ll pass on this one”). Still, DotedOn has been one of our most supportive and frequent visitors to the site so I put some serious thought into the question of why- if I’m in the right mood- I can find a good scare so satisfying.

I’ll start with a scary story of my own. Just over a year ago, people in Ottawa had a very bad day. Mine started a little after 9 in the morning when I woke up to a text message  from jay advising me to “Stay indoors. There’s a shooter on the loose”. I turned on my TV to discover that there had been a shooting on Parliment Hill, which happen to be six or seven blocks from where I live. With reports of multiple shooters, much of downtown was under lockdown.

Unfortunately, it was grocery day and my plan had been to run straight to the store and get myself breakfast. I waited as long as I could but at 2:00 I decided I needed to venture outside and get something to eat. When I got outisde, I discovered that I was practically the only one who had been so foolish. My usually busy street had barely a driver or pedestrian in sight. I found I was seeing my street as I never had before. I was noticing everything that moved, hearing every sound, alert to any sign of trouble and was more ready to run or fight than I had ever been in my life. My fear made me feel alive.

The experience itself was horrible. I was saddened and angry over the loss of life and over the attack on my city and on my country. Besides, I had what seemed at the time to be good reason to fear for my safety. But in a safe and controlled environment, a similar shot of adrenaline and the heightened arousal that comes with it can be rewarding. According to WebMD, our bodies have similar reactions to horror movies as to real threats. Our heart rate increases up to 15 beats per minute, our palms sweat, and our blood pressure rises. Objectively, though, we know that we’re safe in our living room.

the shiningThe laziest horror movies milk these cheap thrills very effectively with quick adrenaline shots followed by instant relief. “Whoa! Oh, ok, it’s just the cat. Whoa! Oh, ok, it’s just her dad saying goodnight”. Movies like The Shining, The Babadook, and The Blair Witch Project are far more effective at constantly building tension by avoiding the inevitable relief that comes after trying to make you jump out of your seat. These are the ones that really stay with me.

Coming home to a dark apartment after watching a scary movie that has really gotten to me feels just a little bit like that scary day last October. I’m afraid to see what’s waiting for me when I come home but I keep moving forward, slowly and carefully, impressed with myself at how little noise I’m making. I quickly look around the corner into my kitchen and when Jack Nicholson isn’t waiting for me with an axe, the relief I feel was well worth the trip. Once I’ve discovered that the Blair Witch isn’t in my bathroom and Freddy isn’t in my bedroom, my heart is beginning to slow down. Every time I’m scared but keep going anyway, I’m getting stronger, I tell myself. I don’t know if I like horror movies so much as like surviving them.

Anyway, this is how I experience the scary movies that I like. Why do you like horror movies?

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You

rockthekasbah_review_article32BC796E300000578-0-image-a-1_1440879836035Rock The Kasbah: a has-been (never was?) agent (Billy Murray) decides to cash in on his one remaining client (Zooey Deschanel) and have her tour the USO circuit in Afghanistan. A panic attack has her taking off with his cash and passport, which means he’s stuck in the middle east with his thumb up his ass. He meets a number of expats – Scott Caan and Danny McBride are war profiteers, Kate Hudson is a very profitable hooker, and Bruce Willis is “Bombay Brian” – but none are overly helpful (unless you count being hog-tied in a Marilyn Monroe wig, which I don’t) and some are down right exploitative. But then he comes across big talent (Leem Lubany) in a small cave in Kabul, and convinces her to seek fame and fortune on Afghan Star (their American Idol). The Rock-the-Kasbah-review-Billonly problem: women in her culture are forbidden to sing, or to even remove the face covering that would allow her to do so. Critics are savaging this as a one-note performance and I suppose they’re right. I kinda loved it though. I love Bill Murray, and I liked Kate Hudson very much in this too. I wish we could have seen more of Deschanel but Lubany was such an interesting discovery I couldn’t help but root for her.

Zooey Deschanel interviews Palestinian co-star Leem Lubany here.

Our Brand is Crisis: Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton play fictionalized versions of American political analysts brought in to our-brand-is-crisishelp rival parties during a Bolivian presidential election (based on a true story and a documentary of the same name). This movie goes straight to a cynic’s heart, not even bothering to pretend that politics are remotely about doing good or making change, or that elections are the will of the people. They have no respect for the electorate they manipulate so easily. I’m not always crazy about Bullock but she’s better in this than I’ve seen her before. Her talents are harnessed effectively, her comedic timing not wasted on idiotic movies nobody would ever watch if it wasn’t for cross-Atlantic flights (and this role was converted for her – it was originally intended for  man). That said, there’s a little something lacking in Our Brand is Crisis. It’s not biting enough. You can’t make a political satire and then go limp.

Burnt: the Assholes were busy dancing with Dan Aykroyd so we passed our screener tickets along to a couple of conscripted assholes, Justin and Ben.  When I asked Justin what he thought 01-bradley-cooper-burnt-kitchen-in-movieabout the movie, about a nasty chef played by Bradley Cooper, he said “It was good.” So what do you think? Does he have what it takes to become a permanent Asshole? When prodded for further detail, he called it “decent”, which in a way is a win because half of all of Justin’s movie reviews consist of him making the retching throw up sound, but it’s also a loss because what he means is: it’s fine. If you’re curious to see Cooper play an asshole, then rent it when it comes out on DVD, but don’t waste your money on this one.

Frightfest 2015

We all watch movies with our earphones on in our office but you can always tell when someone is watching a scary movie. We yelp, we jump, we scream, we swear. Sometimes the “scary movie” is one of the trailers before the movie starts or even just an episode of Homeland. Yes, Jay and I work in an office of scaredy cats, ourselves included. I once startled the room by crying out in terror during an episode of Twin Peaks.

So, welcome to our horror fest, one designed specifically for the squeamish. I can’t guarantee that our selections won’t startle you, revolt you, or terrify you. But that’s what Halloween is about, isn’t it? Venturing into the unknown and confronting the spooky, the twisted, and the horrifying in a fun and safe place. And if you’re working in our office, remember that there’ll always be one or two other trained counsellors standing by if it gets to be too much for you. Oh, and also help yourself to some spooky cereal as you watch.

The Frightfest 2015 selections are as follows…

The Babadook– The more you deny him, the stronger he gets.

Beetlejuice– Beware Jeffrey Jones, the creepiest character featured at the Festival.

The Blair Witch Project– Everyone knows by now that it’s not real, right?

The Corpse Bride– I give them an eternity.

Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead–  The anti-Semitic Zombie Movie!!

Double Feature: The Shining with Room 237– If Jack Nicholson isn’t crazy enough for you, check out the fans of the Shining.

Frankenweenie– Not as pornographic as it sounds.

Halloween– How does Jamie Lee Curtis still have a voice?

Housebound– The only thing worse than being stuck in a haunted house is being there with your mother.

A Nightmare on Elm Street– See Johnny Depp before Tim Burton turned him into a cartoon character.

ParaNorman– How parents just don’t understand.

Scream– The movie that convinced us all that we need Caller ID.

What We Do in the Shadows– Vampires are people too.

Zombeavers– Exactly what it sounds like.

 

Interview with Horror Makeup FX artist Ashley Robinson

Little Linda Blair, tiny star of The Exorcist, didn’t roll up to the set in her mom’s station wagon, fresh from a spelling test and a bologna sandwich, looking all demonically possessed. Someone had to paint her that way. Doing makeup special effects is someone’s job.

Meet Ashley Robinson, an emerging Canadian freelance SFX artist and a filmmaker in her own right. You might expect that someone who creates stab wounds all day would be a little bit twisted – and you’d be right. Matt and I had the chance recently to not only sit down with Ashley but to undergo “the process” and it turns out that not only is Ms. Robinson incredibly interesting, self-taught, and artistic, she’s funny as hell too.

Jay: So how did you get into this line of work?

FX1Ashley: I started by working with my brother (Andrew JD Robinson, founder of WORKOBEY Films). I’ve been his go-to makeup effects consultant for whatever project he is working on for some time now. It’s only recently I have decided to dabble more into the gore FX and showcase my creations on social media. [You can find her on Instagram @ash_fx] At the moment I’m working exclusively for his production as well as whatever project I have up my sleeve, but am open to expanding in the future if the timing is good and the right project comes along.

Jay: What kind of work is available for you in Ottawa?

Ashley: Indie films, Halloween events, building a photographer’s portfolio, etc. are all different opportunities for an FX artist. Ventures like that can exist anywhere; you just might have to dig a little deeper in some areas.

Jay: Were you a creepy kid? What I mean is – did you make your dolls look like monsters? Give your friends gruesome makeovers? Look at books of accident photos?

Ashley: If filming a feature-length called “Slaughterhouse” with my Barbie dolls (blood pumps and all) is considered strange…then yes.

Jay: What’s more fun – to make someone look beautiful or hideous?FX2

I think there is something beautiful about transforming someone once attractive into what we view as repulsive or ugly. It requires a type of vulnerability to welcome others’ disgust.

Jay: What kind of reference materials do you use for inspiration?

Ashley: Depending on the type of wound that I am interested in creating, I will research real images. This can be really gut-wrenching. Nothing beats the real thing though. Accuracy is the force behind a positive (aka disgusted) reaction.

Jay: Obviously there’s some artistry involved in the process as well. We know you write and direct films. Do you do other kinds of art ?

Ashley: I was definitely that quiet, weird, artistic girl in high school that doodled on every binder. Drawing, painting and writing have always been things I enjoyed. So I guess naturally the next step was disfigurement?

FX4Jay: What are some of your favorite makeup effects that you’ve created?

Ashley: One of my first attempts would have to be a favourite. It was cuts across the fingers using my homemade molding wax (which can be a pain to make yourself). I was proud I was able to blend it the way I did and thought it came out well for my first time.

Jay: Do you go all out for Halloween or is that too much like work for you?

Ashley: My go-to costume as a kid was always a witch- every single year. Surprisingly I haven’t gone all out for Halloween since then. But why mess with a classic?

Jay: What movie do you wish you could have worked on?

Ashley: I would have loved to been a part of ‘Excision’- in any way shape or form. The visual dream sequences, the blood…oh the blood. I just wish I had beaten them to it!

Jay: Were you a fan of horror first, or did that interest come as you started with the FX?

Ashley: I have lived and breathed horror since I was about 10 years old. My brother and I would somehow get away with renting stacks of VHS horror movies from a local video store down the street. Watching horror movies literally consumed the majority of my life growing up and still does to this day.

Jay: What actors or directors would you most like to work with?

Ashley: Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino. They can make anyone look fucking cool.

Jay: In such a CGI-heavy time in the movie industry, do makeup effects still have a place?FX6

Ashley: When you look back at the 70’s and 80’s makeup FX, it is mesmerizing how artists, with their own hands and pure talent could create something so amazing. I believe they will always have a place in a true horror fan’s heart, but industry wise, I’m not so sure anymore. It’s a rat race to make the quickest dollar as opposed to creating as a fan for the fans. Animatronics are the shit. Stop Motion is the shit. CGI is just crap.

Jay: Does what you do ever affect you emotionally? Do you get nightmares?

Ashley: Gore FX is oddly therapeutic to me. If I’m having a stressful day at my full-time job for instance, I get excited with the thought of coming home and putting boils on my face…It’s like any hobby, it’s a great and fun distraction.

FX3Jay: What about this work do you think would surprise most audiences?

Ashley: Constantly coming up with new and innovative ways to throw your own spin on standard wounds can be challenging. In the end, a cut is a cut…but it’s a matter of how can I make this one stand out from the hundreds of others?

Jay: Is there any movie character or effect that you would have done differently? 

Ashley: Twilight. I think that says it all.

If you think Ashley’s work is pretty clever, wait till you see what she does with our FACES.

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Tips for Surviving Horror Movies if You’re A Chickenshit Like Me

October is a very divisive month: to scary movie, or not to scary movie. Some people just don’t tolerate horror very well, but it’s hard to avoid this time of year. So for those of you who would otherwise spend the whole time breathing noisily while staring at your shoes, may I suggest:

stressed-is-desserts-coaster1.Stress eat. Forgo the popcorn, that’s too easy to eat mindlessly. You need something to really sink your teeth into.  Try veggies and humus, that’s a little more difficult to navigate, and will give you something to focus on. Or a cheese ball with crackers, so long as the crackers are tough enough to withstand  your anxious spreading maneuvers.

2. Pour yourself a generous rum & Diet Pepsi. The rum will slowly relax you, and the caffeine will make your bladder spastic – bathroom breaks are a great excuse to avoid a particularly gruesome scene. CutePuppyDoCutework_thumb2While on a fake bathroom break, use your phone to look up cute pictures of puppies getting into trouble.

3. Play a game for distraction. I find that Simpsons Tapped Out works best, and they’ve got a lovely Halloween event on now where you can tap zombies, snakes and skeletons for rewards. Plants VS Zombies has also worked for me. What’s key is picking a game that you can play quietly, and 2015-10-06-12-48-12where you can afford quick, furtive glances up at the screen to see if they’re still getting murdered as fuck up there.

4. Sing a little song to yourself. Or sing a loud song to everyone. Why can’t the Saw franchise be a musical? Narrate what’s happening on screen in your best opereto.

5. Watch the movie as if you’re the editor and it’s your job to find all the mistakes. The more low-budget this horror is, the more you’ll find.

halloween-1For instance, in the movie Halloween, when Michael attacks the nurse outside the sanitorium, he smashes through her car window. If you watch carefully, you can see a little wrench taped to his glove, which allowed the actor to easily break the glass.

In Dawn of the Dead, a zombie gets hit by a 2023truck and goes flying, but astute viewers can pick out the mini trampoline that helped create the effect – boiiiiiiiiing! See? Not scary! He’s just a grown man in a silly costume jumping on a too-small trampoline, and failing to hide it from you.

6. Think about the makeup lady who’s just out of shot right now, waiting on set to touch up the blood or bits of brain. She’s got a little toolbox full of bloody cotton balls and bone fragments she made out of styrofoam last night while watching reruns of Seinfeld and smoking unfiltered cigarettes. She’s forgetful, this makeup lady, so if you pay close attention, you’ll often see that a slash to the right cheek becomes a slash to the left, and then flips back again. Now imagine the director yelling cut, and this poor fool trying to order a Whopper at Burger King with this hideous makeup. Do you think he wants fries with that? Or imagine, if you will, a small child visiting Mum on set between takes, and licking the blood right off her neck, because that shit’s almost pure corn syrup. Someone’s going to have to clean this mess up afterward, and be grateful it’s not you.

93251There are plenty of makeup mistakes to spot here as well. In The Exorcist, you may find that the little girl shakes her head back and forth a lot while she’s possessed, poor thing, but this causes her hair to move and expose her pretty pink ear lobes – oops! Guess the makeup team didn’t think we’d see them. They remain unpainted, and apparently, unpossessed.

7. Protect your face. Something feeling scary? Put your hands to your face, shield your eyes, then spread your fingers ever-so-slightly. Not too much. Just let in a little light. Feeling okay? man-looking-through-fingers-smallerSpread em a little wider. Can you see glimpses of the screen? It’s much more manageable this way. You can probably find at least one small section of a body that’s not currently getting ax-murdered. Fixate on that. Foreboding music starting to build? Slam those fingers shut again!

8. Do a project. Have a colouring book on the go, or do some ironing. I like to give Sean back massages, because it keeps my brain half-occupied and also, he’s much bigger than me, and blocks my view. If you’re actually at the theatre, see how many times you can fold a paper napkin from the concession stand, or count the seconds between screams. Anything for distraction!

9. Have a therapy dog on hand. A small dog who will cuddle works best. A small dog who can dog-kisseskhold your hand on command is even better. Remember: nothing bad can happen if a puppy is kissing your ear.

10. If all else fails, remember that no matter how many bite-sized pieces she’s currently getting chopped into, this actress makes it. Eventually she left work for the day. She had to shampoo her hair twice to get all the sticky fake blood out. She went shopping for Monistat to treat her yeast infection. She stalked her ex-boyfriend on Facebook. And then she stood naked in front of a mirror wondering where she went wrong in life.

So that’s how you watch a movie like a wuss. It’s not pretty but it gets the job done. How about you – are you blood-lusty, or do you whimper your way through? Have any tried and true techniques?

NHFF: The Best For Last (Chicken)

The New Hampshire Film Festival was full of great movies – in retrospect, we didn’t see a single bad one, and that’s not supposed to be possible when you’re ingesting just as much film as possible in a single weekend. There has to be a dud in there somewhere – that’s science, isn’t it? Or mathematics? Law of averages? Just my luck? But no, not a bad one in the bunch. There were, however, some super duper standouts.

chickenYou’ve already heard Sean crow over his favourite, Robert Eggers’ The Witch, but you haven’t yet heard me swoon over Chicken, the absurdly titled (and I should know) movie that will break your damn heart. There is no way to summarize this movie and do it justice. It’s about a 15-year-old kid named Richard (Scott Chambers) who suffers from some unspecified developmental delay. He lives in a trailer with his brother Polly, who is neglectful at best and I’ll let you use your imagination for his worst. Richard’s only true friend is a chicken who gets included on his many adventures about the property he and his brother (Morgan Watkins, Kingsmen: The Secret Service) are illegally squatting upon. But then one day he meets the daughter of the new owners, Annabel (Yasmin Paige, Submarine), whose abrasive tongue might lose its barbs for such a gentle creature and his faithful chicken. Now take that inadequate synopsis and sprinkle it with magic.

Director Joe Stephenson absorbs us into Richard’s world immediately, and we can’t help but fall in love. There isn’t much plot wasted on this character-rich drama, but you’ll never be bored. Richard is MetSomeonenot quite like any character you’ve seen before, aptly and considerately brought to life by the excellent Scott Chambers who wisely chooses empathy over pity. Stephenson knows that Richard is the key to the audience’s heart, but he’s not after some melodramatic tear-jerker, he’s looking for honesty, and he finds it in unlikely places. You’ll be startled to find such compassion from such a young filmmaker but he’s brave enough to give his actors lots of room – literally and metaphorically. You’ll see this translate on the screen as he often takes full advantage of his scenic location rather than closing his characters into too-close shots. He injects a strong cinematic element into what was once a play and has room to spare. Though there’s some Chicken-1unevenness to the script, I easily forgave all not because I cared for Richard, which was easy enough to do, but because I came to care for the brute Polly. And once you have seen Polly in action you will appreciate the enormity of  Stephenson’s accomplishment of making you care about both brothers.

You don’t always feel it, but the movie is lathering up to something bigger than the sum of its parts, and once you get there, you won’t want to watch but nor will you be able to look away. At the climax, just as through the whole movie, the characters are complex, sympathetic, and real, and that’s what sets this movie apart and elevates it to a whole new level.  These wonderful characters make this movie one you have to watch and one that will stick with you long after you leave the theatre.

IMG_2851Both Chambers and Stephenson were in attendance for this, its North American premiere, and the audience was all too glad to be able to reward their effort with a heartfelt standing ovation. And yet, as I’ve found myself thinking back on this movie even as I’m attending other film festivals, and in fact have watched more than a dozen movies in the week since, I realize that it’s not enough. It’s not every day that a movie gets under my skin, and I’m probably more cynical than most.

This film took home the Narrative Grand Jury prize, and jury member John Michael Higgins Chicken-1-456x320presented the award to Stephenson noting “It was a very special experience for me to watch. This film had an incredibly delicate tone, sustained over each event, which is very hard to do.” I’m glad these guys have a trophy to lug home, because this movie’s not going to win an Oscar but it does deserve something that will sit on a mantle and proclaim: I made something moving, and people saw it, and they fucking loved it. Because all of us who were lucky enough to see this film loved it and I have no doubt that you will love it too.

Inside Out Film Festival

hr_1986_IO_2015OttawaFestival_websitebannerNot to be confused with the latest Pixar offering, Inside Out is a not-for-profit film festival that runs in both Toronto and Ottawa and showcases movies from around the world that are made by or about the LGBT community. Access to queer cinema is a big draw in the community, as evidenced by a packed house at the Bytowne and the enthusiastic applause that ended the night. Inside Out screened The Girl King earlier this week, which you may know we took in a few days ago at another film festival. That’s right. We hit up two film festivals this weekend alone.

We did catch a screening of Fourth Man Out, about a small-town car mechanic who comes out to his best friends on his 24th birthday. They promise him that their relationship won’t change…famous last words. Because things fucking change. Of course they do. The quartet of young actors are greatfourth-man-out together, but I’m not going to call this a bromance because I think that word cheapens and mocks friendship between men. They are good friends, and Adam’s coming out does mark a big transition for the group – although it’s someone on the outside who has to remind them that this is not really about how hard it is for them. The movie is legitimately funny and accessible, but as Matt pointed out, feels a bit dated. “It’s okay that our friend is gay” feels like something that should have been made 15 years ago, and if it’s taken this long for a movie like this to get made, that’s a sad commentary indeed and even more justification for festivals like this to exist.

Another movie that we haven’t begun to talk about yet is Mississippi Grind, which Sean and I saw at the New Hampshire Film Festival (a third festival, but that was last week, keep up!). Mississippi Grind is about a chronic gambler (Ben Mendelsohn) who meets a human good luck charm, or so he MSGbelieves (Ryan Reynolds), who bankrolls his new loser buddy on a redemptive road trip. They scheme to travel the country together raking in the big bucks, but let’s remember that gambling is a serious addiction, and these people never know when to quit, and, voila: you know this isn’t going to get a happy ending. Ben Mendelsohn is great, and as much as I loved him in Animal Kingdom, it’s nice to see him in such a nuanced role; he seems quite comfortable straddling the line between pathetic and hopeful. Ryan Reynolds is at his best, which is nowhere near what Mendelsohn is doing, but he’s in his comfort zone so this odd pairing works on a strictly chemistry level. The script is loose and leisurely, maybe too leisurely for its genre, but I enjoyed its unpredictability and defiance of the expected arc.

Where Better to See Swedish Films than Upstate New York?

IMG_3139The St. Lawrence International Film Festival is nothing if not ambitious. It’s hosting movies in four different cities this weekend, in two different countries: Ottawa and Brockville in Ontario, Canada, and Canton and Potsdam in New York state, USA. This is its inaugural run and it has not been without wrinkles. The website and handbook tend to disagree an awful lot. On Friday night we took in a movie that was slated to run until 9:06pm, according to the internet, which meant that a second movie at 9pm was a no-go. The program told a different story and indeed we were out by 8:40 and could have made the other film. We saw another instead. The next day the internet had us at Snell Theatre at SUNY college when in fact the movie was in another auditorium altogether. We discovered this mistake before it was fatal, but the run-time was again amiss (and it didn’t help that they started late) so we missed our next movie. When you’re asking people to travel to different countries, which in fact we had, it’s a long IMG_3145way to go to be disappointed. Fortunately, this festival has been a lot more than just its mistakes. We already told you about the fabulous opening night gala with Dan Aykroyd at Gatineau’s beautiful Canadian Museum of History. where we screened an anniversary edition of Blues Brothers but guess what – we actually saw some movies that are not older me!

At the American Theater Canton, NY:

The Girl King: tells the incredible (true) story of Kristina, Queen of Sweden since age 6 (roughly 17th century, I believe), who fought against the conservative values and religion of the time to THE-GIRL-KING-Key-Artmodernize her country, to make it a mecca of wisdom and curiosity. And she also happened to be a lesbian, which would have been frowned upon anyway, but when your first job in life is to produce a royal heir, it’s a crazy scandal. Malin Buska is stunning and gives a great blank stare (and also, she’s like 78% legs, so when she gallops about it’s kind of a thing to see) but she’s most dynamic when lady-in-waiting cum royal-bed-companion (Sarah Gadon) shares her screen. At times the film is quite lush and there are certainly lots of costumes fit for a queen, but the film betrays its limitations; there’s a low-budget filter over the thing, and the production values just aren’t there, especially considering it’s a period piece. But it’s a pretty great story with an interesting philosophical bent, and it’s refreshing to see a historical female figure for once.

The Break-In: about a couple going through a rough patch in their marriage who seem to bond anew over a shared trauma when they accidentally murder an intruder. The film starts with the break-in and subsequent concealment of a dead body in their freezer, and then unravels backward in time to let us know how exactly we ended up at this awkward point in time. Even though you know about the murder in advance, this movie still managed to keep me on tenterhooks almost the entire time. The director has these agonizingly long shots that keep us watching beyond what’s comfortable. We feel the tension; we become complicit in it. Betrayal and failure waft throughout this thoughtfully quiet film, leaving lots of room for the morality of the thing to seep into our bones. It’s interestingly ambiguous, with neither a true villain nor hero, and guarantees a lively discussion during the car ride home. Director Marcus Ovnell and leading lady Jenny Lampa, who gave a restrained but strong performance as the disconnected and discontented wife, were both on hand at the screening, and Ovnell said of casting both his wife and Lukas Loughran, that you hire great actors and “hopefully they do something interesting.” And I believe that in this small and humble way, they have.

At the Proscenium Theater, SUNY Potsdam, NY

The Hunting Ground: an intensely riveting documentary from the people behind The Invisible War spotlighting the troubling epidemic of rape on college campuses across the country. Unflinching in its approach, it bravely puts a face (in fact, many faces) to the overwhelming statistics: nearly 1 in 4 the-hunting-ground-e1422286410932female college students will be sexually assaulted during their studies. 1 in 4. Think about that. Do you have a daughter going off to school soon? Is that a number you can live with? It’s a tough one to swallow, so the schools are all complicit in massive cover ups to massage those numbers down. They revictimize the victims by discouraging reporting of any kind. If a woman cannot be intimidated into dropping the charges, the schools hold disciplinary committees that are a joke – out of the 259 reported rapes at Stanford during the past couple of years, only 1 of the rapists was expelled. So now your daughter has not only been raped, she’s forced to attend class with her rapist, eat meals with him, see him on campus, maybe even share a dorm. And she’s likely receiving death threats from her fellow students, especially if she’s accused a BMOC. The big men on campus, namely fraternity brothers and student athletes, are completely insulated from consequences by the universities because the schools’ main priority is not student safety but fundraising. And scandal doesn’t pay. So rapes are constantly swept under the rug, women feel violated by administrators who won’t support them, and not a single thing is being done to remove predatory repeat offenders from campuses that provide them a steady stream of young, ripe victims. The film’s scope is quite impressive and paints the villain as not just institutional but societal. It’s high-impact and unapologetic and I hope it gets an Oscar nomination not only because it’s very effective film making, but because this cause needs to get as many eyeballs on it as possible. Executive producer Sarah Johnson was on hand to tell us that it is the activism and the outreach behind the film that is most important to her – check out the website to find out what campuses are screening it now, and how to get a screening at yours.

Lady Gaga’s stirring song in support of the film:

The Monster Pool Horror Anthology

On Sunday Sean and I were wrapping up our coverage of the very enjoyable New Hampshire Film Festival, which means we were, you know, in New Hampshire. Which is about 700km and a border crossing away from home. But we had something we were anxious to cover back in Ottawa later that same day, so we drove non-stop (and when I say non-stop, I may or may not be glossing over a stop in Vermont at the Ben & Jerry’s factory) and made it to Ottawa’s Mayfair theatre with mere minutes to spare to see the anthology of horror films presented by Andrew JD Robinson and Vincent Valentino.

11264802_657555234375835_5559594398628765954_nMonster Pool rules: your 6-minutes max film must contain 1. a cursed skeleton key that “causes” the horror and 2. a randomly assigned monster or horror film trope – like zombies, or a cabin in the woods. Robinson & Valentino had an exhaustive job ahead of themselves, soliciting entries and cobbling the whole thing together into a 2 hour marathon of local talent, and they premiered the thing to a packed house and enthusiastic crowd. The Mayfair atmosphere was pierced with screams and roared with laughter. The great outcome: it was a non-competitive showcase, and it was obvious that everyone had a great time just supporting each other.

Unfortunately, there being 20 films on hand, I don’t have the space to review them all, so instead I’ll offer my heartfelt congratulations to all the filmmakers, and I’ll focus on just a few of the highlights.

First, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you about an 11-year-old director and movie star called Daniel Elston. He recruited friends and family for his impressive entry, which featured droves of zombie pigs and lots of kung-fu and fart noises. Any of you who were once little boys are probably groaning with envy right now. He was the only kid entrant, and I found it very moving to think about how hard he, and his family (and I’m thinking his mom) must have worked to put this piece together. What a wonderful thing to receive this kind of encouragement at a young age.

Pseudocoma, directed by Adrian Matthews & G. John Leslie, is about a girl who finds a strange key in a time capsule at her high school reunion, and then goes home craving blood (and worse), to majorly creep out her roommate, and me. I was particularly drawn to the excellent score, which I see is credited to Marcus Fong.

Pandora’s Box, by Vincent Valentino, about a victim getting her revenge, was maybe the blood-lustiest showing of the night. It had awesome effects, blood galore, and is it just me or did I see some vertebrae?

Gifted, directed by James Campbell & Nick Wilson, is about a wife’s birthday gift to her husband of an antique robot to add to his odd collection. But when his daughter uses a mysterious key to fix it up, the robot turns hostile. In this one I noticed the impressively gruesome sound design (Allen Roulston’s doing, I presume?).

Vlog #79 was an undeniable crowd-pleaser with a strong, punchy script that accomplished a lot in under 6 minutes. With Luke Gabriel at the helm, it confidently blended horror and comedy and maximized its effect. A charismatic Youtube star has a life-changing experience in the woods one day, and the effects are…other-worldly?

It’s actually really exciting to see so much local talent congregating together. One film, Engineers, by Tyler Williams, had great use of lighting and set design. One Small Step for Man, One Giant LEPUS for Mankind by Andrew Robinson was a fan-favourite work of mixed media shock & appall, while also garnering laughs between buckets of blood. The Golden Dawn had an excellent script. Marcello Varanda’s Room 666, was the sole animated contribution and managed to achieve quite a bit considering the constraints. Allen Roulston’s Very Bad Dreams had some really cool camera work, while Patrick Murray’s Scapegoat was visually stunning. Not a bad film in the bunch.

Thanks for having me along, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.