Okay, continuing to catch us all up. Here we goes.
the Year Dolly Parton was my mother
Well here was a truly pleasant surprise. I went in expecting a sub mediocre low budget Canadian art wank and I ended up getting a truly heartwarming little tale about a young girl in nineteen seventies rural Canada who discovers she’s adopted, then decides that Dolly Parton must be her mother based on the kind of evidence only a child or a wack job conspiracy theorist could draw a conclusion from. What impressed me most about this movie was how natural the whole thing unfolded. It still had a lot of the flaws low budget Canadian drama tends to have (lots of overwritten melodramatic scenes) but it’s also got an honesty too it that was enough to draw me in. It also taught me a lot, funnily enough, about Dolly Parton herself. I was so used to the caked on make up and fake boobs that I didn’t realize what a feminist icon she had been. One of the first female singer songwriters, not to mention an early gay rights activist, she really did pave the way for woman in music calling the shots and not just taking a job. Truly enlightening stuff.
Another Canadian film (and there’s more coming, April seems to be the month for them) Daydream Nation is an early candidate for best Canuck film of the year. This story of a teenaged girl who moves during the tail end of her senior year to a small town (a pleasant place where there’s an industrial fire that will never go out and a serial killer running rampant) this film has the same feel of a Donnie Darko. I.E. it’s an art house crowd pleaser with a hint of mind bender to it. There’s some pretty blatant flaws in the film, chief among them being they go to a lot of trouble to make the central character seem highly intelligent then have her do some pretty stupid teenaged shit, but those can be forgiven once you look at the overall quality. This one’s a real gem and it deserves an audience.
Bill Cunningham New York
I absolutely freaking love documentaries that introduce me to interesting subject matter I knew nothing about. Bill cunningham New York is about a photographer (the titular character) who has been taking pictures of the New York fashion scene for decades now. He does it in three sets. He takes pictures at fashion shows, he takes pictures at galas and, most importantly, he takes pictures on the street. He actually looks at the evolution of fashion and how it finds its way onto the backs of people going to work.
He himself is in his eighties, has never married or, to anyone’s knowledge, had a relationship, and his apartment is filled with nothing but filing cabinets loaded with his work (he doesn’t even have kitchen appliances or a television). The film reminded me a great deal of Crumb. That is, a tale about someone who’s managed to turn his obsession into something positive as opposed to letting it destroy him. While the figure is tragic on some level, he’s also admirable on another. Would you rather be a raging success and lead a solitary life or fail at your goals and live comfortably? That’s something only you know for yourself.
Water for Elephants
Based on a novel, I got the feeling the novel was a lot better.
That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have it’s moments. This tale about a med school drop out who runs away and joins the circus is amazing to watch and, at times, feels very accurate in its depiction of circus’ during depression era America. But it’s got that thing…you know that thing I talk about all the time that bugs the fuck out of me? Where you realize that a scene, or a series of scenes, is meant to represent about two hundred pages in a novel? Well, this movie has that in spades. It just has that feeling of a well made film that had a very rushed script. There are some great actors in it (not just the leads, but the supporting cast seems to be peppered with theatre vets and working actors who always bring their A game) but just having great actors and great productions values isn’t enough, you need a compelling story and while this film hints at one, it doesn’t deliver and for that reason I can’t recommend it.
Okay, that’s all for now. Next week should bring several more Canadian films including Repeaters, Textuality, and The high cost of living, as well as some American stuff.