Kevin Courrier

Now before you think that I’m breaking out of my writer’s block with a vengeance, based on that title, I’ll have to let you down ever so easily. It’s actually the title of a really interesting film lecture series coming up at the Miles Nadal JCC. Each Monday night from January 16 through March 26, from 7:00 until about 9:00, critic and author Kevin Courrier (Critics at Large) is going to examine this meaty-sounding subject with a selection of film clips. The films under discussion make this sound fascinating:

  • Monday January 16: The Kennedy Era (The Godfather, Part II, The Manchurian Candidate, JFK assassination news coverage)
  • Monday January 23: The Johnson Era (Bonnie and Clyde, Dr. Strangelove, In the Heat of the Night, Cool Hand Luke, Night of the Living Dead, The Wild Bunch, Bullitt)
Midnight Cowboy
  • Monday January 30: The Nixon Era (Midnight Cowboy, Easy Rider, Alice’s Restaurant, Dirty Harry, Billy Jack)
  • Monday February 6: The Carter Era (The Conversation, All the President’s Men, Taxi Driver, Winter Kills, Who’ll Stop the Rain, Nashville, Coming Home, The Deer Hunter, Star Wars)
  • Monday February 13: The Reagan Era (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Blow Out, Pennies from Heaven, Diner, The Border, The Survivors, Moscow on the Hudson, Under Fire)
  • Monday February 20: No class
  • Monday February 27: The Bush Era (Field of Dreams, True Believer)
Primary Colors
  • Monday March 5: The Clinton Era (Primary Colors, Forrest Gump, JFK, In the Line of Fire, Love Field, Three Kings, The Contender, Wag the Dog, The West Wing (TV))
  • Monday March 12: No class
  • Monday March 19: The GW Bush Era (We Were Soldiers, Tears of the Sun, The 25th Hour, Team America: World Police, Fahrenheit/Fahrenhype 9/11)
  • Monday March 26: The Obama Era (Rachel Getting Married, Definitely, Maybe, No Country for Old Men, Charlie Wilson’s War, The Hurt Locker, The Visitor)

Tickets are $12 for each class ($6 for students) or $100 for the entire series, and are available in person at the Miles Nadal JCC information desk (750 Spadina Ave. at Bloor St.). Hope to see you there!

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Controversial Directors in Nayman's Terms

Eye Weekly film critic Adam Nayman has been teaching a series of film classes with the cheeky tag “in Nayman’s Terms.”

I was privileged to attend a couple of classes in the last series, on the concept of national cinema “New Waves” and am excited that he’s running another series, beginning March 21st. This time, he’s tackling controversial directors and will focus on a different one each week. All classes are held at the Miles Nadal JCC (750 Spadina Ave., at Bloor St.) and run from 7:00pm to approximately 9:00pm:

In addition to his work for Eye Weekly, Adam is a regular contributor to Cinemascope, Cineaste, Reverse Shot, POV, Montage, LA Weekly, Film Comment, and The Village Voice. He’s also the best sort of critic, someone who is able to actually educate you about film without coming across as a pompous ass. The classes are an invigorating blend of low-key lecture and generous selections of clips.

You don’t need to pre-register or commit to the whole series. Classes are $12 each ($6 with student ID) and as a past attendee, I can bring someone along for free! Wanna be my +1? Just let me know!

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I’ve been dipping into Pauline Kael’s Deeper Into Movies lately and came across this delicious quote:

There’s a good deal to be said for finding your way to moviemaking—as most of the early directors did—after living for some years in the world and gaining some knowledge of life outside show business. We are beginning to spawn teen-age filmmakers who at twenty-five may have a brilliant technique but are as empty-headed as a Hollywood hack, and they will become the next generation of hacks, because they don’t know anything except moviemaking.

She said that in 1969 in the context of reviewing documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman’s High School. Wiseman had come to film after a career as a law professor and urban planner, and definitely came to his films with some ideas about the world. Kael would probably have a lot to say about some of today’s young directors, many of whom grew up comfortable with the tools of filmmaking but who have yet to find anything distinctive to actually say about anything.

What do you think? Can you give me some examples and counter-examples of young filmmakers with nothing (or something) to say?

UPDATE: Oh wait, there’s more! From a rather unfavourable review of Canada’s own Alan King’s A Married Couple:

[Y]oung filmmakers, who are rarely writers but are hooked on technology, love an approach in which the thinking out in advance is minimal—an approach in which you shoot a lot of footage and then try to find your film in it. Young filmmakers generally know almost nothing about how to handle actors, but probably all filmmakers have unhappy or “unfulfilled” friends eager to have a movie made of their lives; fame is probably the cure they seek.

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For the first time, the winner of the Toronto Film Critics Association award for Best Canadian Film will also receive a cheque for $10,000, thanks to sponsor Rogers Communications. The award will be one of a slate of honours handed out at the 11th annual TFCA Awards Dinner, to be held January 6, 2009 at swish Toronto restaurant Nota Bene. All Canadian features released theatrically in 2008 are eligible for the cash prize.

Apparently, the annual dinner is being opened up to the industry and the media for the first time, although I’m not quite sure what that means to film bloggers like me. Are we media, industry, or critics ourselves? Either way, it’s unlikely that I’ll be noshing with this year’s host Cameron Bailey or the presenter of the award for Best Canadian Film, Sarah Polley, who was last year’s winner (alas, without the cash) for her directorial debut, Away from Her.

Award categories include Best Picture, Best Male Performance, Best Female Performance, Best Supporting Male Performance, Best Supporting Female Performance, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Canadian Film, Best First Feature, Best Animated Feature, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Documentary Feature.

Nominations will be announced on December 17th, including the three finalists for Best Canadian Film.

This is just the beginning of awards season, so I won’t get into any guessing games about the bulk of the awards, but as far as the single Canadian film to be honoured, how about Tout est parfait (Everything’s Fine), directed by Yves Christian Fournier? (UPDATE: I watched the film and have posted my review. Though it’s a solid enough film, I suspect it will be eclipsed by another film from Québec, C’est pas moi, je le jure! (It’s Not Me, I Swear!), mentioned by Matt MacKinnon in the comments.)

I’m realizing that “feature” probably excludes docs, but I’m not completely sure. As well, it’s often difficult to determine what qualifies a film as “Canadian”. How much of the production has to be funded by Canadian partners? What about films that have Canadian subject matter? Maybe someone can enlighten me.

Not being a particularly astute observer of Canadian films, I’m bound to be missing most of them. What Canadian film from 2008 would you honour with a $10,000 cash prize?

P.S. Hey TFCA, how about updating that web site a bit more often?!

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Roger’s Rules of Order

by James McNally on October 30, 2008

in Critics

The legendary Roger Ebert has posted a lengthy but hilarious diatribe in the form of his “little rule book” for film critics. I nervously glanced through to make sure I hadn’t committed any of the sins mentioned, and can truthfully tell you that (so far), I’m still fairly righteous. Though it’s a funny piece, it does have a serious intent behind it:

“We can’t be too careful. Employers are eager to replace us with Celeb Info-Nuggets that will pimp to the mouth-breathers, who underline the words with their index fingers whilst they watch television.”

Luckily, or unluckily, I don’t work for anyone, so I’m in no danger of being replaced. But I do want to maintain my self-respect, which is why secretly I think I avoid setting up interviews with the actors and directors whose work I love in fear of coming across like a fanboy.

(via Karina, who dishes up some dirt on the target of Ebert’s sermonizing)

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