Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Almost Four Weeks left for American Express and Avenue Magazine Dining Guide Promotions

Well...that's a wrap. The festival is over, the films are being shipped back, and the box office has been emptied (so long Ikea lounge, Stella fridge, and all the Red Bull we could drink)! However, a few good things will linger until the end of October, before we all settle in for several months of hibernation.

Looking for a classic dinner and a movie experience? Be sure to stop by RUSH for lunch, dinner, or drinks, and then head to your nearest Rogers Video to pick up a copy of Breakfast at Tiffany's or Roman Holiday. RUSH is as much an experience for your eyes as your palette -- an air of old Hollywood glamor rules, with monochromatic tones, rich wood, glittering bobbles, and luxurious textures offers up a feeling of grandeur. The restaurant itself is split between several rooms: a formal dining room, a lounge for drinks or a quick bite (which includes a beautiful, long communal dining table similar to Farm's harvest table), two private dining rooms which together fit up to 28, and my personal favorite: Calgary's first chef's table.

I had the culinary pleasure of having a leisurely lunch in the Rush lounge. I dined on potato gnocchi with slow poached egg and spicy mushroom saute, while my lunch date feasted upon a lobster bisque with sandwich. The gnocchi literally melted in my mouth, and both of us easily cleaned our plates.

In between lunch and dessert, we took a tour of the venue, taking in the private wine boxes, stunning wine cellar, and different rooms. We then settled in for cappuccinos and dessert, Rush-style. Each item on the menu is themed: I settled for carrot, which included carrot creme laced with sea salt (amazing) and my date for blueberry, the highlight of which was a lemon/basil/blueberry concoction (equally delicious).

At the end of it all, we both decided Rush would become a new favorite Friday evening drink spot, dinner spot, and lunch spot. From September 1 until October 31, 2009, you will receive a $20 gift card to Vintage Chophouse and Tavern when you spend at least $100 before taxes at Rush and pay with your American Express Card. This and similar offers are featured in A Guide to Great Food in Calgary, a beautiful photographic guide produced by American Express and Avenue Magazine. Check for details online if you haven't found your guide yet.

Monday, October 5, 2009

That's a Wrap!

Well, another film festival has wrapped up and what a 10-days it's been!  I'll be using the word "thanks" quite a bit in this post but I do mean it.

We would like to thank our sponsors - without them, there wouldn't be a festival for us to go to, to volunteer at, to blog about, etc...

A big shout out to American Express for helping to deliver the first ever Mavericks award on Saturday night. We'd also like to thank Volkswagen for helping to drive us around town, Cineplex and Citytv for their support.

We'd also like to thank Canwest, Movie Central & HBO Canada, Fast Forward, Fashion Central who gave us sweet digs for the delegate lounge and the box office this year and the Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation for their support.

We had many sponsors in the media as well including Avenue Magazine, CBC, CJSW 90.9FM, Beatroute, Fashion Magazine, the Calgary Herald, CKUA Radio and Gay Calgary Magazine.

We'd like to thank the following sponsors in no particular order, Skyy Vodka, Bullfrog Power, Stella Artois, Joe Media Group, Segue Systems, Christie, Ikea, UPS, UVS, Starbucks Coffee, Hyatt Regency, Corkscrew Media, Sundog, Flagworks, Barley Mill Eau Claire, Pulp, Inc. Three Point Nine Marketing, Tubby Dog, Boulevard Travel, Indigo Books, The Fairmont Palliser, Mealon, Thrifty, Pyramid Productions, Cine Audio Visual, Diva Hair Salon and Christie Lites.

Scott Hall, LLP and Nuvo Hotel and Suites helped to bring you the Headliners and Cineplex, The Globe Cinema and The Plaza Theatre displayed the films. Big thanks to Alberta Film, the National Film Board, AMPIA, Calgary Economic Development and Telefilm Canada. Alberta Foundation for the Arts, The Calgary Foundation, Calgary Arts Development, Alberta Lottery Fund, Canada Council for the Arts, Tourism Calgary and the Rosza Foundation. One last shout out to The Broken Plate, The Wicked Wedge, Agropur, The Palomino, Mango Shiva, Wok Box and Thai Tai.

That being said, we'd also like to thank one more person.


In all seriousness, thank you for attending the festival. The festival has grown a lot in 10 years and we couldn't do it without the public so here's to 10 more!  I've been volunteering for the last four years in various capacities and I have to say this has been my favourite year so far!

I'd like to thank Juan and Kathleen along with all the staff for giving me a chance to blog about the festival.  It is a highly sought after position and I didn't take it lightly.  I took a break from my blog to do this and it was well worth it!

Hope to see you all next year...

Chaston B.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

As Perfect As The Great Romantic Poets' Verse

Bright Star is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. Breathtaking, spellbinding, a cinematic work of art with each painterly scene worthy of a Renaissance period frame and a gallery installation. Masterfully lit, meticulously decorated, with costumes and art direction that draws you into the early 19th century; it is certain to see many nods from the Academy.

In fact, Bright Star is already winning accolades for the Writer/Director, Australian filmmaker Jane Campion. The film earned her a nomination for a second Palme d'Or at Cannes (Campion is the only woman to have won the award - for The Piano in 1994 - for which she also took home the Best Original Screenplay Oscar.)

Based on Andrew Morton's book about poet John Keats (Ben Wishaw) and his love for the youthful Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) and inspired by the poem Keats wrote for his muse; the title of which is the first verse:

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art -
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priest-like task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors -
No - yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed upon my fair Love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever - or else swoon in death.

Campion has crafted an exquisite love story which is a powerfully emotional journey of devotion and longing. Its narrative is palpable, especially through the sincerity and dismay portrayed by the coquettish Cornish (Heath Ledger's Candy co-star) whose character is at once feisty and helpless. It is a feast for the eyes and as lyrical as poetry for the soul. Not to be wasted on home viewing, see Bright Star at the theatre.

(Diane Bennett is covering Events, Headliners & Music on Film)

Docs: Art and Copy

Just as I thought the festival was winding down, I walked into the Eau Claire theatre packed to the brim with people ready to watch... a documentary?! About advertising?!

But Art and Copy certainly pulled through and by the end, people were psyched to have learned so much about the leading ad designers - artists - that have come through with some of the best ad campaigns of the past few decades. Far from being a critique of consumerism and corporate brain-washing, this film put good advertising on par with art and design. It totally bypassed the topic of poor ads (the stuff we feel dragged down and bombarded by every day) and focused on what sets the good ads apart from the rest.

It turns out the answer isn't so clear cut. Some slogans are chanced upon and go viral for no good reason, while other ads are carefully manufactured to evoke particular emotions and make us want to not just buy a product, but join the group of people we associate with that product. The common vein, though, is that kernel of truth that we can identify with in the five or thirty seconds that we see the ad for.

But before taking the last step of this argument and proclaiming the great ad designers as the prophets and truth-seekers of our age, one is also faced with numbers. Billions of dollars are spent on ad campaigns that have only one purpose - to make us want things. An overwhelming majority (upwards of 80%) of all ads come from only four holding agencies. Kids are exposed to over 20 000 ads every year. Michael Jordan's value to Nike is estimated at $5.2 billion. Business is, after all, business.

Like it or not, advertising is a key component in our society and has a huge influence in shaping it. And in the right hands, it can do good things too; Nike's 'Just do it' campaign made people not only get off the couch, but also quit bad marriages and encourage girls to do more sports.

It was great to see so many people out for the last night of the fest! It's been a pleasure to blog for CIFF for the past week and bit and I hope you're all as stoked as I am for next year! Cheers to CIFF on its 10th birthday!

Closing Gala Awards Highlight Of The Night

After having had the opportunity to listen to three of the Mavericks Filmmakers talk about the Art of Directing during the morning Industry Panel presentation yesterday, it was all the more exciting to see one of them win CIFF's top prize at the Closing Gala last night.

Writer and Critic Geoff Pevere, Head Juror of the Mavericks series, spoke of the attributes this award celebrates, prior to naming the winning director and film.
"Freshness of vision and creation of its' cinematic language, for vitality of its' expression and the reward it offers to viewers who rise to its' challenges; embodying the spirit of fearless originality and trailblazing optimism, it defines the essence of the Maverick spirit. The inaugural 2009 Mavericks Award goes to Chris Chong Chan Fui for Karaoke."

Production Still from Karaoke

The filmmaker,
was speechless when he accepted the award, consisting of a trophy and a cheque for $25,000 - the largest prize of its kind from a Canadian Film Festival.

Chris Chong
with CIFF's Trevor Smith and Jacqueline Dupuis

Chong says he completed Karaoke in about 5-months, although he had been thinking about making the movie for a couple of years. During the industry panel discussion the writer/director said the subtext of his film is deception. Chong used his actors much like props and felt they were one of the least significant aspects of the production, noting he left them in the dark about the vision he had for the film. The director added he only needed professional actors so they would be on time and not talk on set.

Although Chong said he was very regimented when making the film - carefully plotting each scene on an excel spreadsheet and following a distinct three act structure - fellow Mavericks filmmaker Nicolas Perada (Juntos) said the Karaoke director was probably the only one who viewed his film this way, noting it had a very loose style.

The Borneo-born, and sometime Torontonian, filmmaker has previously won two of TIFF’s Canadian short-film prizes. Karaoke was also selected for the 2009 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight (which is rare for a first-time feature film to show at Cannes) after having been selected exclusively for the script clinic at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival.

The Best Of Alberta (Shorts) Award was also presented at the Closing Gala to Calgary-based Writer/Actor/Director Karen Hines for A Tax On Pochsy, the latest installment in the series featuring Hines as the amusing character Pochsy, with the distinct style of a silent film star.

Karen Hines accepts her award from NFB's David Christensen

A Tax On Pochsy is a romp which tackles serious issues like pollution and child labour with a witty, whimsical delivery by the delightfully funny Pochsy whom, it seems, is developing a cult-status in Canadian cinema as Hines alter-ego.

Production Still from A Tax On Pochsy

CIFF named High Life the Best Canadian Feature film (Gary Yates, Writer/Director). It's an outrageous comedy about a motley crew of petty criminal morphine addicts who decide to step up their game with a bank heist. (Not your average Canadian stoner movie.) The hilarious antics of these Pulp Fiction-esque characters, set to a 70's soundtrack featuring classic rockers April Wine, make this a nostalgic bit of Canadiana, even if the filmmaker tries to pass off the location as anywhere USA.

Other winners announced were:
  • Can Go Through Skin, Special Mention New Voices in Fiction
  • Katalin Varga, Best International Feature
  • 45365, Special Mention: New Voices In Documentary
  • Tibet Song, Best Documentary Feature
  • Dans Macabre, Programming Selection
    Outstanding Achievement
  • 12 Notes Down, Best Documentary Short
(Diane Bennett is covering Events, Headliners & Music on Film)

Review of the Weekend

First off, a big hand goes out to Eau Claire Market for helping to put on a great event last night - the Closing Night gala. Of course, last night's screenings took place just upstairs in the Cineplex Odeon Eau Claire Market Cinemas. The hospitality staff of the Hyatt Regency served amazing food and drinks and did a great job to keep everyone happy. A shout out to all the volunteers that worked the gala and to those who stayed late to pack all of this away. I grabbed a few shots of the party right before everything started.

And here's the room with a few more people all of whom were conversing and have great conversations over a few Stella's...

The Stella case up top was full at the beginning of the night and was promptly empty at the end of the night. There's the new "Stella Artoia Legere", the lighter version - I botched up the pronunciation of it so many times. Skyy Vodka and their sister brands were also available, Skyy is another sponsor of ours and we are glad to have them.
Going back a little bit, Friday night, Stella Artois held it's Unseen Party. It was a lot of fun from what I heard and if you saw any of these placards or banners, that's what they were for.
Congrats to all the award winners including our Best of Alberta winner and the winner of the Mavericks Award, Chris Chong Chan Fui who received a $25,000 grand prize furnished by American Express. He was given one of those big checks but sadly I didn't have a good view of it. Citytv will have some highlights for you on Monday's BT and Your City programs.

The parties may be over but there's still a full-day of festival to be had. See something you missed or catch something new because there's still another 8 hours of festival left!

Geetika's Fave's and Last Recommendations

Well it's Sunday October 4th, and the Calgary International Film Festival is winding down to the end for this years schedule, as is my blogging.

Last Day of CIFF............sigh

I wanted to take a moment to highlight my favorites for this year based on the two series (Canadian, and Hump Night) that I have been blogging on.

For Canadian films at the festival this year my favorites in order are:

1. An Insignificant Harvey - Which to be honest with you was not one I was keen on seeing, much to my surprise I ended up loving it. Hence the saying goes "never judge a book by it's cover" or in our case a film.

2. Year of the Carnivore - I loved the quirky nature of this film, and the scenario's that were played out by Sammy Smalls (although this film was part of the hump night series, it was Canadian and one of my fave's as a Canadian film).

3. Excited - The underlying message of the film in regards to acceptance is why this film is third on my list.

Honorable mention - I Killed My Mother . I must say that I was very taken by I Killed My Mother considering Xavier Dolan not only took on the lead character, but also produced, and directed the film.

Hump Night Series - The Auteur
It was a definite crowd pleaser, hands down! I would recommend this film to anyone who does not get too queasy when things get a little (okay a lot) frisky.

I did have the opportunity to check out some other films at the festival, and my no. 1 all around favorite film for this years CIFF programming would would have to be, drum roll please ..................................

Geetika's all around CIFF favorite this year: Amreeka!
It was funny, yet made a powerful impact on understanding ignorance, and Nisreen Faour was fabulous as Muna. Plus this film was American and Canadian.

If you have not had a chance to check out the festival, there is still time as films will be screened until late tonight. You can still catch Cole, High Life, and one of my fave's, The Auteur.

Alright that's it for me for this year, officially signing off! Geetika

Best of Alberta Shorts

It was another great year for the Best of Alberta Shorts program. A near sell-out every year, this year it served as the closing gala presentation. The films were all great and the Q & A with filmmakers from most of the films was enlightening. Greenwash Gang was conceived, shot, and edited in 17 hours for a 24 hour film competition. Ellen's Shoes is Han Siu's first film. He shows great promise as a feature film director. I had heard many people talk highly about The Island. I think it played at FairyTales this year. Fallow is the first film in a planned trilogy. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for the two films to follow. Intergalactic Who's Who - Zig 5 was an interesting take off from the Hinterland Who's Who series. Zig 5 is the fifth in the series of Intergalactic Who's Who. I think the director said there are at least three more to come. A Tax on Pochsy is the latest in a series of plays/short films about the character Pochsy (anagram of Psycho). A fantastic film that engaged the entire audience. It is rare to find a film that is so well filmed as well as funny. 5 Hole: Tales of Hockey Erotica was adapted from Dave Bidini's stories. I think Cam Christiansen has won this award the past two years (for I Have Seen the Future and The Real Place). Although, those films were both deserving of the award (with the former even being short-listed for an Academy Award) I was glad to see the streak broken this year. Trevor Smith directed a music video for Dan Mangan's song The Indie Queens Are Waiting. I have watched this video countless times since it was posted online a couple of months ago. Mangan will be performing in Calgary at the Marquee Room Monday, October 5th. Dead Walkers appeared to have the most cast and crew in attendance. We will probably be hearing more about this film in the coming months as it continues to be accepted to impressive film festivals around the world.
At the gala, A Tax on Pochsy was announced as the winner. A well-deserved win.

Breathless (Ddongpari )

Good morning everyone, and welcome to the final day of the 10th annual Calgary International Film Festival. Today is the day to catch encores of some the fantastic films you have missed over the 10 days, and escape Calgary's early taste of what promises to be yet another cold and snowy winter. Last night I had the privilege of seeing a fantastic Koren film entitled Breathless, and I enjoyed it so much I had to blog about it. (I promise I'll refrain from any bad jokes about how it "took my breath away"...)

Never in my life can I say I had the opportunity to reach subtitles as "colorful" as I did throughout this film. I left the theater last night certain that I had mastered a number of Korean profanities after hearing them spoken so often onscreen. This being said, this was in no way a deterrent.. I mean come on, this was a movie about a gangster.

The colorful language was probably the only feature Breathless had in common with it's Western gangster movie counterparts, and this is largely why I enjoyed the film so much. Breathless is both multifaceted and cutting edge. It is raw, it is authentic, and there is nothing glamorized about it. The movie stars the incredibly talented Yang Ik-June (he also just so happens to be the film's director) as Sang-Hoon, a damaged man who is haunted by his violent past and turns to the gangster life as some form of release from his anger and self-loathing.

On his way home one day he meets a high school girl named Han Yeon-Heui, the first person he has met in a long time who will stand up to him and doesn't shy away from his hostile demeanor. The film follows the progression of their unusual,yet captivating relationship as Yeon-Heui helps Sang-Hoon let go of some of the anger that he has held onto for so long, and he helps her escape from her tumultuous and violent family life.

Breathless is a captivating look into the cycle of domestic violence juxtaposed against the breathtaking backdrop of the South Korean landscape, and is one of the most memorable films I've seen over the course of the festival.

If you missed the screening last night, there is an encore playing at the Globe at 6:45pm tonight. Trust me, you don't want to miss it.

Finish up strong

Sunday marks the conclusion of the Calgary International Film Festival. Check out these encore presentations of the films you missed earlier in the week. The weather doesn’t look good so go ahead and overdose on films. Start your day with “Miao Miao” at 12:15pm at the Globe. Stick around the Globe for another showing of “Breathless” at 2:15pm. Another option would be to walk over to Eau Claire to see the Icelandic “White Night Wedding” at 3pm. “My Dear Enemy” will play again at 5pm at the Globe. Have a bite to eat then check out the encore of “Seven Minutes in Heaven” at 9:15pm at the Globe. That sounds like a good way to end the festival for another year.


Ever get frustrated with hearing a busy signal on the other end of a phone call? Imagine being able to call your local radio station and having the announcer tell the person you're trying to reach to get off the phone. That wouldn't fly in Calgary but in the town of Fort McPherson they would be happy to oblige. In fact, they would be happy to pass along any message from any caller.

It's obvious from watching the documentary CBQM, that the residents of Fort McPherson not only take great pride in their locally run radio station, but also in their tight knit community. From moose calling competitions and scoldings from the RCMP to story telling and open mic broadcasts of aspiring musicians, CBQM is a dependable source of entertainment to the 900 residents of the place they call McPhoo. For me, it was a refreshing alternative to the usual fast paced, attention grabbing stations that bombard you with advertisements, chart hits, and contests with big giveaways.

CBQM is more than a story about a radion station. It's a detailed portrait of the Teetl'it Gwich'in community and of life in a small town. It is playing at Eau Claire on Sunday, October 4th at 2:30 pm and is a great opportunity to learn about a place and culture that's hidden 150 km north of the arctic circle.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Exploding Girl (no it's not my autographical piece!)

Day 9 of this year's Calgary International Film Festival has come to a close, and what a crazy day it was! I woke up this morning eager to set out to watch a carefully chosen list of 4 films. Weeeell, I somehow managed to mix up which theater I was starting off my day at, and ended up missing the American Indie flick, White on Rice.

Instead, I ended up at the encore screening of Gigantic, and then set off to the Globe for a screening of the Korean gangster movie Breathless. The night finished off with a screening of the Exploding Girl, the perfect closer to an otherwise hectic day.

The film follows a quirky and lovable college student named Ivy, as she heads home to spend spring break with her mom. The course of her plans take a slight change, when she gets an awkward call from her friend Al asking if he can crash on her couch. The two have known each other since eighth or ninth grade, so of course Ivy agrees. Over the course of the time they spend together, Ivy's boyfriend becomes more and more distant, while her and Al struggle to come to terms with blossoming feelings they have for one another.

The Exploding Girl remains sincere and genuine throughout the course of its 79 minutes and this is largely attributed to the talent of the lovely Zoey Kazan in the role of Ivy, and the adorable Mark Rendall as Al. The two had fantastic onscreen chemistry, and together were able to perfectly capture the essence of two friends realizing they may love each other in a way they never imagined.

The Exploding Girl was not only a fantastically written story of two people testing the waters outside the "friends zone," it was also a cinematographic marvel. Filmed in a series of long unbroken takes, director Bradley Rust Gray was able to capture the hustle and bustle of the city and subtly intermingle it with the progression of Ivy's inner turmoil throughout the film.

If you missed the screening of this warm and fantastically shot American Indie film last night, don't fret! There is an encore screening of the Exploding Girl playing this afternoon at 4:30pm at the Globe.

Films for Families!

The kids are alright! This afternoons showing of Films for families was a great success. It is always a great feeling to see future cinema lovers and current movie buffs enjoying an afternoon ‘out on the town’. The globe hosted six unique shorts all in the child friendly realm.

Prior to the movie starting the anticipatory hustle and bustle of families added to the excitement of these little movie-goers. Even better, A birthday party was being celebrated (Happy Birthday!) at this particular screening. Now, that probably would have been a pretty exciting invitation to get!

I think all of the short were a great hit with the audience, although there were a few that stole the show. As expected, Chicken Cowboy by Stephen P. Neary won over the audience. This tale about a chicken, who tries to be a man only to realize it is better to be yourself, was both visually captivating and hilarious (especially with Bobo the barking horse). Luckily, you can watch this short online at

Furthermore, Lost and Found by Philip Hunt was also a triumphant addition to the selection. This short, based on the award winning story by the same name, is about a young toque wearing youth who discovers a lost penguin at his door. Although he is, at first, unwilling to accept the penguin into his life, he learns through numerous trials and tribulations (and even a trip to the South Pole) how important a new friendship can be.

Finally, the shorts capped off with the stunning animation in The Happy Duckling. The animation in this short is absolutely brilliant! Focusing on a modern take of an old pop-up book, audiences are lead through the tale of a persistent duck and the boy he begins to follow.

In all, the collection of these shorts was exciting and a very entertaining way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Volunteers Put There Necks Out For Festival

CIFF Volunteers at the Black Carpet Gala

The final weekend...

Here we are, the festival is drawing to a close. Tonight is the Closing Night Gala and everyone's excited. Tonight's event will be taking place at Eau Claire Market.

From what I understand it will be a similar setup to the Opening Night gala last Thursday night and it should be an fun and exciting event. The closing gala film, which is a presentation of Short Films from filmmakers here in Alberta and will be taking place in the Cineplex Odeon Eau Claire Market.

Cineplex has been a sponsor of the festival over the past few years or so and this is the first year the festival has held gala's at a Cineplex venue.

Tonight we also award the first Mavericks award, a $25,000 dollar grand prize to one of ten filmmakers. The Mavericks Award prize is courtesy of American Express.

However, there's still a full-day of films to go tomorrow. We have a few films playing for the first time tomorrow, a few encores as well. Check the schedule on the Calgary Film.com for full listings - sponsored by Movie Central.

Carcasses: Our things, Ourselves

When you were a kid, did you a have a favorite teddy bear, lego collection, or piece of clothing?  I know I did.  It's normal for children to create bonds with their possessions - it can teach them to respect their belongings, and value the special gifts they are given by others.  However, when an adult displays the same attachment to inanimate objects it is often seen as crazy, sad, or superficial.  When does it become unhealthy to care deeply for your things?  Or does it depend on the individual, the item, and the emotions attached to it?

The relationship between person and possession is explored in the Canadian docu-drama Carcasses.  It follows the story of 74-year-old hoarder Jean-Paul Colmor, a man who spends his days reminiscing with his accumulated collection of do-dads - his favorite being junkyard of auto parts.  
Some he repairs, some he sells, and others he will not part with.  It is only when his secluded lifestyle attracts the attention of others that his eccentric emotional state is exposed, challenged, and embraced.

Carcasses plays Sunday, Oct. 3rd at The Globe at 7:30 PM.



Excited for Excited Tonight!

Excited huh, hummm, perhaps a little too early as portrayed by Cam Cronin as Kevin Staal who suffers from a common sexual dysfunction known as premature ejaculation. Kevin’s overly intrusive mother however is constantly on his case to find a woman and start a family. We are also introduced to Hayaam played by Laara Sadiq. Hayaam and Kevin’s relationship starts to get hot and heavy but things fizzle “early” so to speak. None the less they take another go at it, until of course Kevin’s mother meets Hayaam, and discovers that she is not what she had in mind for her son. The story is one that looks at individual short comings, and how love is unconditional, even though it can be turbulent at times. Do you have high expectations of those you love? Perhaps it’s time you look in the mirror so that you can see what you bring/and don’t bring to the relationship. Maybe you will have a better appreciation of love’s oversight.

Grab your girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse, or partner and check out the film Excited 7:30pm tonight at Eau Claire Cineplex Odeon.

I’m sure after watching this film you will have a deeper admiration for those who accept you for you, and no one else, even with all those secrets in your closet. You know you have them, we all do!

Shorts review: You do what for a living?

Even though you go to work every day, there are things you wish you could do or jobs you wish you could have. Maybe you want to be an astronaut, a lawyer or a swimsuit model photographer. The theme of Thursday's shorts package was On the Job and each one had scenes you could probably identify with.
The evening started with The Spleenectomy produced by Glamour magazine based off of true stories sent in by readers. Starring Anna Faris (Observe and Report, Scary Movie), the comedy followed a young mother and aspiring actress who auditions unsuccessfully for a part but then has the chance to redeem herself by accidentally filling in for her sister's (a doctor) spleenectomy. Cute and entertaining throughout.
Next was Amor a striking Norwegian story of a man who gets beat up for a living. A depressing existence for the young man until he finds someone worth fighting back for. God, I love Scandinavian films. This one is unbelievably tense, mysterious and surprising.
Charlie Thistle was another short that should hopefully make you appreciate the job you have. Named after its paper-shuffling, sad and defeated main character, Thistle starts to learn the power of approving changes in the Department of Normality, not denying them. One of the first changes to shatter his boring world is approving the colour red.
Two Canadian filmmakers offered insight after the screenings on their own shorts: Smita Acharyya's Sorry Girl (a Calgary production) and Matt Judge's I Work in Public (a Toronto production). Ironically both filmmakers shared that more time off recently due to layoffs gave them plenty of time to finish their work. Sorry Girl features a woman who says sorry to much and her boyfriend who tries to shock the bad habit out of her system. I Work in Public features a man recently laid off who starts a personal assistant office on the sidewalks of Toronto's financial district. Both were well shot and very thoughtful.
I recommend checking out more on each of these Canadian artists. Judge is also a composer for some high-profile Hollywood flicks. Smita is continuing new productions with her twin sister with their appropriately named Twinsletown Productions. Check out their interactive voting system where actors auditioning for roles can seek the public's opinion on their performances on Babycliff.com.

Cooking with Stella

Last nights headliner, “Cooking with Stella” was a full house. I arrived early, as did many others who anxiously waited in the cool brisk weather hoping to get their hands on the limited seats available at the door.

Cooking with Stella is directed by Dilip Mehta, brother of Deepa Mehta, who co-wrote the story. You may remember Deepa Mehta from Fire, and Water, two stellar films that made a mark on the screen addressing taboo topics in the Indian community.

Cooking with Stella was a light hearted story about a diplomat played by Lisa Ray, and her husband Michael (Don McKellar) who is a chef. Maya’s position moves her and the family to Delhi. With the move come many perks, such as servants. Stella is the Cook, who we come to love, but question her strange loyalty. Michael talks Stella into being his Indian Cooking Guru. While Stella teaches Michael to cook she schemes up some interesting recipes to change her own life.

The cast was full of talented people. Stella played by Seema Biswas, who we remember as Phoolan Devi in 1994’s Shekhar Kapur’s must see Bandit Queen. Don McKellar made us see the gentle yet frustrated character of Micheal. The Nanny, Shriya Saran is a well known Tamil/ Telugu actress from Tollywood (a close cousin of the Bollywood industry). Maya played by Lisa Ray who we know from Bollywood/Hollywood has worked with Deepa Mehta before in Water. Lisa Ray who has recently been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma has been undergoing Chemotherapy. I wanted to share a few words from Lisa Ray’s blog http://lisaraniray.wordpress.com/ in response to the cancer recently discovered:

“For me, it was a relief to hear what was wrong. The plasma cells in my bone marrow were rampaging, multiplying, squeezing out the red blood cells and it was time to begin doing something about it. I was also tired of being tired all the time. And you just know when something is not kosher with your body. So when I sat there with Bobcat- my life partner and reservoir of Yellow- and got the news I didn’t react and I didn’t cry. I’m an actress, believe me, I can be dramatic. Not just then though."

Dad, Summer Camps, Crab Cakes - it's all here!

So, at the end of a ridiculously absurd day for me (the Curb Your
Enthusiasm soundtrack on repeat in my mind) - my Dad and I headed down for an early dinner at Embarcadero ( 208 17th Ave SE). The cozy restaurant features quite a selection of oysters and seafood dishes - which was great, because my dad hates fish.
Oh whatever guys, he ordered a 10 oz. AAA Alberta steak and LOVED IT! I
tried a bit myself, it was tender, seasoned well, and served with some
tasty veg. We both tried the french onion soup (I'd never had it before - wow. It's um... heavy to say the least. Again, Dad loved it!) and I
ordered the crab cakes which were just amazing. Soft, not overly salty,
and served with a tasty dill sour cream dip.
We were in a ridiculous rush in order to catch All Tomorrow's Parties,
which was AMAZING, by the way. Did you see it? Totally fantastic concert footage from a series of festivals held over 10 years in the UK at former summer camps. Just great! Photos to follow - I promise!
Thanks to the folks at Embarcadero's - and thanks to Avenue Magazine and American Express for helping to make this happen, and for their support of CIFF! You can grab a copy of their Guide To Great Food In Calgary at the CIFF box office (207 8th ave SW).
And if you'd like to visit yourself - until October 31st, with your
American Express card, you receive a three-course prix fixe menu at $25 for lunch and $40 for dinner before taxes! Check out
americanexpress.ca/calgaryselects for more info!

Tonight: Mary and Max

"Mary Dinkle's eyes were the color of muddy puddles; her birthmark, the color of poo."

So begins the charming, delightful, altogether irresistible Australian claymation movie "Mary and Max". In a way, the movie is a spiritual cousin to CIFF's other great animated movie this year, "My Dog Tulip": both are about lonely souls who find friendship in unexpected places.

Mary Dinkle is a lonely Australian girl who becomes penpals with Max Horovitz, an obese middle-aged New Yorker with Asperger's syndrome. The movie follows their two-decade friendship, and explores, as the movie's website helpfully tells us, such themes as "friendship, autism, taxidermy, psychiatry, alcoholism, where babies come from, obesity, kleptomania, sexual differences, trust, copulating dogs, religious differences, agoraphobia, and much more."

And the voice cast is terrific! Toni Collette is Mary (eight-year-old Bethany Whitmore provides Mary's voice as a child); the incomparable Philip Seymour Hoffman is Max. And the movie's narrator is Barry Humphries - unfortunately not in his Dame Edna persona.

"Mary and Max" screens Saturday at the Plaza, at 7 pm.

Docs: Cooking History

With the weather closing in today and Cooking History screening at Eau Claire at 4:30pm, what better way for history buffs and those utterly bored by history movies to unite under the same roof! This brief intro to the wars of the 20th century is told through the recipes of military cooks across the decades. There's recipes for bread laced with arsenic and bread for starving troops, but then there's the decadence experienced by dictators that only the head chef would know about. Certainly stuff that never makes it to the text books!

When it Comes to Vampires, There's a New Edward in Town.

The vampire fad has been getting a lot of press lately.  Recently, the focus has been on human-vampire romance stories geared towards a younger audience (You all know what I'm alluding to here...), but wasn't it awesome when vampires were still scary?  When humans were fighting them, instead of dating them?  Whether it's through horror, sci-fi, or comedy, the battle between humans and vampires can be far more violent and complicated than is currently depicted.  

Tonight's screening of Daybreakers may prove exactly that.  The year is 2019, and most of earth's inhabitants have been transformed into vampires by a mysterious illness.  The few humans left are running scared; prey for the starving, bloodthirsty majority.  Knowing that the vampires are becoming ever more desperate for sustenance, and that the human species is threatened with extinction, a secret group of vampires team up with Edward, a researcher played by Academeny Award Nominee* Ethan Hawke, to find a solution that will save both human and vampire kind.  

Daybreakers debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, and isn't set to be widely released until January 8th, 2010 - so this is a great opportunity to see it now!  Still need another reason to check this one out?  Here you go: it costars Willem Dafoe.  Whether your a Boondock Saints fan or a Green Goblin fan, Dafoe always delivers.  Also, it was filmed in Australia, with the Aussie company Weta Workshop creating the creature effects.  So come celebrate the return of vampires to the action sci-fi genre Tonight, Saturday Oct. 2nd at The Plaza at 11:30 PM.   

  * Training Day (2001) - Best Supporting Actor, Before Sunset (2004) - Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay

Be Calm and Count to Seven

CIFF's first ever Mavericks competition drew to a close tonight, which featured 10 international film makers competing for a chance to win a $25 000 prize. Now I don't know how many of you out there have seen the Mavericks advertisements, but they strongly reiterate the notion that the Mavericks series is both groundbreaking and intense. I certainly don't disagree with this portrayal, but after all the heavy hitting advertising, director Ramtin Lavafipour's humble introduction to his film Be Calm and Count to Seven was a pleasant and heartwarming surprise. With the help of a translator, he spoke softly into the mike and simply said "I am here, because my film is here. My film is here, because you are here. I hope you enjoy it." This brief yet poignant speech was the perfect lead-in to the film I have fondly dubbed the "gentle giant" of the Mavericks.

Be Calm and Count to Seven is not a film that bursts out of the gate and sprints to the finish line. Instead the film takes it time building its plot and characters, and it is evident that a great deal of time went into the careful selection of every included frame and piece of dialogue. The film is set on a small island south of Iran, and follows a number of characters who are inextricably linked to one another. The intertwining story lines for each of the characters are both poetic and beautifully executed against the backdrop of Iran's landscape of sandy beaches and rocky terrain. Perhaps the most haunting aspect of the film for me, are scenes where a bride who was abandoned by her husband on their first night of marriage ventures off by herself and spends time tending to a petrified old tree nestled in the midst of a rocky enclave.

Be Calm and Count to Seven is a rarity in that it doesn't attempt to make some sort of profound statement about society, and succeeds because of the absence of such a grand gesture. The film is a beautiful character study that gave much of the audience (myself included) a glimpse into a breathtaking yet largely misunderstood country that has become engulfed in political turmoil over the years. Together, the combination of the film's hauntingly poetic character development and astounding cinematography make this gentle giant a viable contender for the coveted Mavericks award being presented tomorrow evening.

Friday, October 2, 2009

My Suicide

Hello all you lovely CIFF blog followers! After a bit of a hiatus the past few days (university kind of makes parking my butt in a theater all week a tad difficult) Mel is back, back again.. and couldn't be more excited.

As you all know, this year was CIFF's much anticipated launch of the Mavericks program featuring 10 incredible film makers from around the globe. Tonight for example, I had the privilege of seeing two films back to back from opposite sides of the globe - an Iranian film called Be Calm and Count to Seven, and probably my most anticipated flick of the entire 10 day festival - an American film entitled "My Suicide."

After the house lights came on after My Suicide, my first thought was... well.. nothing. I was utterly and completely speechless. As I'm sure you can all imagine, being speechless is kiiind of the kiss of death for a blogger, so it was a relief when thoughts started buzzing through my mind as my friend Allie and I left the theater. I couldn't wait to get home and gush about this movie, so here I go!

I think it's safe to say, that My Suicide 100% blew my mind (no politically incorrect pun intended... I promise.) It was everything I hoped it would be and more. The ensemble cast was brilliant with cameos from the likes of Tony Hale (best known for his role as the infamous Buster Bluth on one of my all-time favorite TV shows Arrested Development) and the late, great David Carradine.

The film itself was a look inside the head of your not so typical high school student - Archibald "Archie" Williams, and the events that follow after he announces that for his final film project he wants to kill himself on camera. Even though this was a movie about being a teenager, it was anything but your average teen movie. The movie dealt with heavy subject matter - but carried it off in such a witty and intelligent manner that it provided a fresh outlook on what is often an over-explored theme in independent film.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of My Suicide, was the way in which it was played out on screen. The final product was the fruit of over 4 years of labor by director David Lee Miller and his team, and it couldn't have been more apparent. The film is an eclectic mix of documentary-style footage and animation, with PSA announcements from the 1950s cleverly spliced in throughout. The film also features a lot of great monologues done by Archie in homage to cinematic trailblazers such as Apocalypse Now and the Matrix. Gabriel Sunday in the lead role of Archie pulls these moments off flawlessly, and I'll admit, this blogger may now be nursing a bit of a crush on this up and coming star.

The movie not only takes a courageous stand against an issue most people like to skirt around, but it also makes some bold statements about our society as a whole. My friend and I spent the whole drive home talking about how A.D.D our society has become, and how we feed off other peoples' misery, through such outlets as reality television or via embarrassing home videos posted on YouTube for the world to see. I believe Archie put it best when he says, "The green screen is the pogo stick of our generation." Pretty intense themes for a movie to tackle right? Well rest-assured, David Lee Miller walks the fine line between melodrama and hard-hitting cinema and comes out unscathed. I know that I for one will be mulling over this movie for weeks to come, and I would not be the slightest bit surprised if My Suicide brings home the big prize at tomorrow's highly-anticipated Mavericks awards ceremony.

Shorts! Just For Laughs Presents!

Alright now, let’s get our funny on! (I promise one-liners in the films will be much more entertaining than that). Just for Laughs has lined up an excellent set of films for absolute jocular thrill and pure comedic enjoyment. In previous years, the comedic shorts at the festival have tended towards a particular irking and eerie comedy, leaving the audiences with more of an eye-widening nervousness instead of a hearty chortle; but this year’s collection seems to bring together an expansive scope of hilarity.

The first film, the Oscar nominated This Way Up, amuses audiences with a more unique day in the life of two funeral home directors and their hilariously maltreated corpse. This film opens the set up with both an enjoyable amount of laughter as well as a peek at the more maliciously uproarious films that are to come. Although I use the term ‘malicious’ rather lightly, with subsequent titles such as Santa: The Fascist Years and The Outlaw Emmet Deemus and the Porno Queen, I definitely attest that these films will bring an unparalleled humor coupled with prominent politically incorrect messages (the best kinds of messages, one might argue). Although they may be devoid of righteous action, they are filled with utter amusement.

The films also have a wide range of styles that aid in the delivery of numerous forms of humor. From the incredibly quirky animation in Stand Up, where a ‘live’ comedy routine turns into a car crash of human dignity, to an imposition of animation in nature in The Hidden Life of the Burrowing Owl. To round out the set of films, expect to see boobs, biker gangs, and a case of mistaken identity which would merit one of the best FML posts possible.

Comedic short films always pack in as many jokes into the time they are on screen, so expect the most LPM’s (laughs per minute, of course) possible in the Just for Laughs collection of shorts.

Head down to Eau Claire #2 at 5:00PM to catch these short films!

Get Excited!

Primary premature ejaculation is no joking matter.

...Well, except that it IS one of the recurrent themes in the awkwardly hilarious Excited - a Canadian story about a 37-year-old bachelor searching for lasting love and sexual redemption.  His interests lie in a 39-year-old, barren shoe saleswoman - much to the dismay of his grandbaby-obsessed mother.  

This movie will really put trivial strife into perspective for you.  Sex is important, yes, but is physical insecurity worth putting your happiness at risk?  This movie is a real testament to being yourself and the ability we possess to escape the vulnerabilities we impose on ourselves.  Growing up we learn to share, avoid acting selfish, and to always think of others.  These are all significant lessons, but in trying to achieve these morals we often put our own wants and needs aside, unknowingly endangering our personal happiness for fear of appearing conceited.  Someday, you're going to come to a crossroad where you'll be faced with a decision to either continue on this path, or change it - which is exactly the issue illustrated in Excited.   When your time comes, will you make the right choice?

Imperative life battles aside, this movie is funny, sweet, and lovable.  It explores the dynamics of sexual encounters outside of the main character's struggle, and relationships in general.  This would be a great movie to see with your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife,  or would be a wonderful conversation starter for an evening with a first date.  Grab your tickets and see it Saturday evening, Oct. 2nd at the Eau Claire Cineplex at 7:30PM.               

Shorts! Films for Families!

Alright, so waking up before 12PM on a weekend may sound like a daunting task, but it’s most definitely worth it when you consider coming out this Saturday to the showing of Films for Families. One might ask, ‘Why would I, a grown and contributing member of a (presumably) social elite want to wake up and see films directed towards the pip-squeak populous of the generation?’ I dare reply with, ‘do you not remember how awesome Saturday morning cartoons were?!’. The eclectic natures of these shorts are reminiscent of timeless childhood memories, including the tales found within Lost and Found, based on the award winning book by the same name.

These shorts are enjoyable for any age group. I find that, when it comes to children’s film and media, all audiences have the capability to be captured into the realm of the fantastic whilst watching. In a push to entice everyone, the makers of these films have a finite grasp on all of the new and incredibly inventive stylistic and cinematographic elements that inspire awe in viewers. Every short has an incredible use of form and technique; from a quirky claymation snow man in Carrot on the Beach, to the ever popular stop motion techniques used in Miriam’s Colors, to the craziest shifting pop-up book-esque visions in The Happy Ducking.

Furthermore, these shorts not only forward a visual spectacle, they also showcase deep and introspective story lines and morals (although, they may be progressed by a horse that barks like a dog). Topics include loneliness, overcoming bullying, time-altering adventures, and the trials and tribulations of rabbit engaging in the most deceptive thievery.

So, in all honesty, how fun does returning to your childhood roots sound? Grab some cheerios, throw on some superhero underoos, and hop to the Globe upstairs at 12:15PM for a particularly smile inducing set of films that will keep the whole family overflowing with laughter.

Babin: A Magical Journey for the Whole Family

It can be difficult to find family-friendly movies at a film festival, but this year at CIFF you've got a great option!  Come see Babin, a French Canadian fairy tale set ambiguously "a long time ago..."

In a small, simple village there lived a cast of unusual characters.  The gossipy housewife who has been pregnant for years, the shopkeeper's husband who turns the village's bugs into fireflies, the blacksmith's daughter who has spent her life crying and counting flower petals, the priest with the magic pocket watch, and the Witch, who one night gives birth to a boy, Babin.  Babin grows up to be quite odd, and is given the title of village idiot.  Babin is a kind soul, but the other villagers are superstitious and blame their misfortunes on his unusual birth and presence.  When a tragedy in the village raises more eyebrows at Babin, he must make a choice for himself - and for the good of the other townspeople.  

Babin's journey is one of self-discovery, justice, and love - themes that are universal no matter what your age.  I'm a 22-year-old female and I thoroughly enjoyed the mysticism and warmth of the characters and story.  This film can easily entertain adults and children alike -  it's full of magic, fantasy, conflict, and life lessons.  Babin was nominated for 10 Jutra Awards, walking away with 6 wins including Best Art Direction, Best Achievement in Music, Best Costume Design, and Best Make-up.  It was also nominated for the DGC Craft Award for Production Design. 

The film is rated PG (Parental Guidance; a content advisory for mild violence), so exercise your discretion.  Also, it is French audio with English subtitles, so if you and/or your family do not speak French be aware that you will need to pay attention to the text on screen.  In other words, avoid bringing kids who are not yet old enough to read and keep up.  I recommend this movie as a great way to spend a saturday with the family!  Check out the matinee on Saturday, Oct. 2nd at The Globe at 2:30 PM.  

How much have you seen?

Stella Artois are putting on quite the party tonight.

You may have seen the posters around town and might have been wondering what the "Unseen" party exactly is? Stella Artois has been sponsoring film festivals across the country, including ours and they seem to have a knack for throwing a lot of parties - one of which is happening tonight.

Not that we're saying that parties are a bad thing. We love parties, I love parties.

All you had to do was be seen drinking a Stella. Were you seen and will you be there?

Steaks, Vampire Girl, My Mom

So I went for the most fantastic meal last night at Vintage Chophouse (320 11th Ave SW)! Took my mom... after all, she gave birth to me, I figured - since a number of friends couldn't make it - that she deserved a lovely meal!

While the menu offered a number of tapas and seafood dishes, we decided to focus on some traditional Calgary fare (you guessed it... steak and potatoes!) Believe me, this sort of stuff is what Vintage does best! First of all, our fantastic server showed us a selection of different cuts, explained how they are cooked - which by the way was great, because I asked him a totally ridiculous question (in hindsight) which he very politely answered. Ok guys, so you shouldn't serve a fattier piece of steak rare because the fat won't break down.

Obvious now, isn't it?

Well, this fellow was super helpful and offered a great recommendation on a wine pairing as well. I ordered the rib eye (rare) with a Stilton butter, and delicious mashed potatoes. The new world Malbec he suggested was completely complimentary! My mom had a New York strip with a peppercorn sauce, asparagus and mashed potatoes. OF COURSE WE SHARED SOME BITES and let me tell you, her fattier cut was unbelievable tender, as was my less fatty but rarer steak. Delicious!

Then for dessert: a glass of a ten year old port which worked so well with my pecan and pear tart. Oh - wait, this was what I wanted to tell you: the tart was topped with an incredibly creamy star anise ice cream. THIS. MADE. MY. NIGHT. My mom loved her creme brulee, which I believe had a bit of a mocha flavour to it.

And this was really the best part of the meal: our server and I talked about the festival - he said he was excited for Leslie, My Name is Evil! Love that he had a film picked out!

Then, after dinner, it was off to a screening of Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl. Rare steaks and a gore-fest? Perfect pairing, I'd say!

Well, thanks to the folks from Vintage Chophouse! I recommend you visit them - and check out their tapas menu, it looked phenomenal! You can view their menu at www.vintagechophouse.com

If you would like to visit yourself - from now until October 31st, you can receive a $20 gift card to visit Redwater Rustic Grille when you spend at least $100 before taxes at Vintage Chophouse, and pay with your American Express Card.

More info can be found in A Guide To Great Food In Calgary - brought to you by Avenue Magazine and American Express (pick up your copy at the CIFF Box Office at 207 8th Ave SW) - thanks to Avenue and Amex for their generous support throughout the festival!