At Home By Myself... With you

YEAR: 2009

WRITER: Ramona Barckert, Kris Booth

DIRECTOR: Kris Booth

BUDGET: $CAD40,000 (estimated)

GROSS: ?

clicking away through netflix suggestions based on my ratings and previously viewed films and randomly browsing through genres i came across a bunch of titles that caught my eye, the first one of which was At Home By Myself... With You. i saw that it was a canadian film and feeling all patriotic i clicked play, streamed it to my tv and sat back on the couch...

now, don't let the "quirky" "romantic" netflix qualifiers scare you off. we all know that romantic comedies - quirky or not - are generally predictable by nature, not always that interesting and often not really that funny." but, it doesn't have to be that way, as At Home By Myself... With You proves.

also, i clicked the "quirky" link and saw that netflix had also tagged And Justice For All, Adaptation and Young Frankenstein with said tag. so, who really knows what "quirky" means to them?

romy is a women who, as we learn from the opening voiced-over animation, has many phobias. from opening boxes to going outside. and by "going outside" i mean literally taking one step out of her apartment - something she hasn't done for six years. then a guy moves in next door... okay, so you know where this is going. but, as predictable as the destination may be, the ride is enjoyable.

the filming style, the voice-overs, that opening animation, the score and the supporting characters all created a feel to the film that is like a children's story - or some kind of fairy tale? a story about the girl stuck in her apartment who falls for the charming and sweet always-on-the-go guy across the hall.

kristin booth (who you may have seen on a really good film i talked about a couple years ago, Young People Fucking) is great as romy. she is sweet and quirky (ya, i said it), but without becoming a caricature. it's interesting: romy is the "oddest" character in the film and yet she, and the guy across the hall, are what keep the film grounded in reality and make the emotional moments valid for the audience.

also, in case you were interested in the quirky-factor, but wasn't sure how it compared. it is a little quirkier than Easy Rider (another film that, for some ridiculous reason, was listed under my netflix "quirky" suggestions).

Defendor

YEAR: 2009

WRITER: Peter Stebbings

DIRECTOR: Peter Stebbings

BUDGET: $3.5 million (estimated)

GROSS: $37,606

 

the last decade has seen the the super hero/comic book movie seemingly take over hollywood. every year they are releasing and rebooting more super heros and every company that can is delving into whatever comic vault they can find looking for a comic hero that they can turn into a movie (and hopefully a franchise of course).

as we all know, when a certain genre of film starts to get really big, what the next thing to happen is (after everyone trying to make a movie in said genre). first you get the parodies: Superhero Movie. then you get films that some might call post-modern parodies (although, i appreciate that that term, "post-modern" is somewhat overused and/or used incorectly).

these are films that take a reflective and self-aware look at the genre, deconstructing it while playing within it (the little pretentious man inside of me got very excited as i wrote that). the "everyman" superhero theme is a big one here and films like Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World come to mind. and then there is the film, Defendor.

woody harrelson plays arthur poppington. a man who comes to believe he is a superhero, Defendor. he has tasked himself with fighting the evil in the city as part of his large quest in search of "captain industry" - the man who killed his mother.

while films like Scott Pilgrim and Kick-Ass seem to be winking at us the whole time, as if to let us know how smart they are and how aware they are of what they are doing, Defendor never does that. and i say that to point out differences, not to, in any way, diminish those other films (Scott Pilgrim was on my best of the year list last year and Kick-Ass just missed the list).

what was unexpected about Defendor was how genuine it was. while there are some very funny moments, the movie is also quite dramatic, touching and real. from the questions of arthur's mental health, his friendship with a teenage girl and even down to the color scheme which plays in the darks and greys and cloudy skies. and these aren't comic book greys, or gothem city darks. it is just a cloudy city.

this is a concrete world. a world outside our window - not inside a comic book. and although there is the superhero element to it, peter stebbings (the writer and director) is more interested in the "hero" part then the "super.

C'est Pas Moi, Je Le Jure! (It's Not Me, I Swear!)

Year: 2008

Writer: Philippe Falardeau (writer) & Bruno Hébert (book)

Director: Philippe Falardeau

Budget:?

Gross: ?

i only heard about C'est Pas Moi, Je Le Jur! a little over a week ago. i was out at dinner with friends and one of them mentioned how she had seen this french-canadian comedy a few nights previous. she mentioned how she had watched the whole thing waiting for the "comedy" but it never came. but she also couldn't stop watching, because she was really enjoying it.

well, lo and behold i was home a few nights later around 6:50pm, flipping through my movie channels and what do you think i saw starting at 7 o'clock? you guessed it, C'est Pas Moi, Je Le Jur! i went and quickly made something to eat and at 6:59pm i was sitting in front of the tv ready to check it out. and am i glad i did. this film is great.

the film takes place in 1968. leon is a 10-year-old boy with some issues. he is like dennis the menace times 100. not only does he have a fertile imagination and is kinda suicidal. he seems to have no moral compass when it comes to his actions. especially when his unhappy mother decides to move to greece and he acts out even more.

while it isn't a laugh out loud family comedy, the film does have a dark sense of humor that permeates the film - as does a real deep and poignant sense of drama. the two are melded together beautifully into a film that, along with the music and the cinematography, creates a real mood and engagement in the characters and the story.

the film has many of the markers that one might expect: the rebellious kid, the fighting/unhappy parents, the girl next door, etc... but they in no way make the film predictable. leon's character goes farther than it is sometimes comfortable for the audience to go or what they might expect. thus keeping us "on our toes" and creating something familiar and original all in the same wonderful film.

french canada has a pretty strong film culture/industry and is well supported by its people. however, many of the films - with some exceptions of course - don't get past the border to reach a wider audience (even within the rest of the country). C'est Pas Moi, Je Le Jure! made quite a big splash at the toronto film festival and even picked up an award at the berlin film fest and is well deserving of said recognition outside of quebec.

The Tracy Fragments

The tracey fragments Year: 2007

Writer: Maureen Medved (novel & screenplay)

Director: Bruce McDonald

Budget: $750 000 (Canadian)

Gross: $31 576 (USA)

this was one of those "watch-it-because-of-the-director" movies for me. i was flipping through my movie channels and i saw The Tracy Fragments. the name rang a bell but nothing more than that.  So i pushed the info button on my remote and saw "directed by bruce mcdonald....."

those of you who have been following the blog/podcast for a while now might remember a film i talked about back in 2007 called Roadkill - also directed by bruce mcdonald. and the reason i had been interested in seeing that film was because of the first bruce mcdonald film i ever saw, 1996s Hard Core Logo - which is, along with This Is Spinal Tap, the best fake rockumentary i have ever seen... anyway, back to The Tracy Fragments...

this is a film that really needs to be seen to be full appreciated (seems like a pretty obvious statement no?), in that talking about it really doesn't do it justice. in its basic simplest form, The Tracy Fragments is about tracy, played by ellen page (if you thought her great performance in Juno was a fluke, this will prove it wasn't), riding around on a city bus looking for her missing younger brother who she has hypnotized to think he is a dog.  that is where the film begins, but how did we get to that point? why is she wearing a shower curtain on the bus? what is life like for her at school? and at home? all those questions are answered as the film evolves and jumps back and forth bringing time lines together over the course of about 80 minutes.

besides the non-linear storytelling the editing and visual style of the movie is what stands out. The fragmented teenage world and mind of tracy is portrayed visually throughout the film by the constant changing grid/split-screen technique in which images and scenes shot from various angles all play out on the screen at the same time.  if you are familiar with the show 24 you can think of The Tracy Fragments as "24 on crack" - it isn't out of the ordinary in the film to have 6,7,8 or more grids on the screen at the same time or multiple picture-in-picture type visuals.

i will admit that for the first 5, maybe 10 minutes i wasn't sure about the film. the fractured time line story telling seemed like it might never come together and i started to feel like maybe the constant fragmented screen was nothing more than an interesting exercise. but, it wasn't. the film worked beautifully and as moments came to pass that connected with things we had already seen the story formed coherently and the mondrian-like split-screen editing only added to the film and the storytelling.

i would recommend watching The Tracy Fragments on as big a screen as possible, because when the screen gets really fragmented the many images do get kinda small on an old 19-inch crt (like the one i have). however, even on a sceen that size you will appreciate the film as a fascinating work of movie making and a film that stands as more then just that as well.