Critics

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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