After a day spent in darkness (literally that of the theater and the metaphoric darkness of nearly everything I saw yesterday), I'm glad to report that there is lightness in cinema. And it's not all the flyaway lightness of most Hollywood cinema; it was more light like a good stir-fry - filling but not leaving you feeling so full you can't move on.
Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley
Sarah Polley is best known for her acting (The Sweet Hereafter, Go, Dawn of the Dead) and more recently for her turn as writer/director (Oscar-nominated for her screenplay for Away from Her). Now, she turns documentarian, turning the camera on her own family. The result, Stories We Tell, completely avoids navel-gazing and is instead a beautiful glimpse into how families define themselves. Every surviving member of her family, plus family friends, discuss their memories of her late mother, who died when the director was merely 11 years old. There are revelations to challenge those in 2009 fest favorite Prodigals Sons (that I won't reveal here), but the beauty is how we come to emotional truth each through our own paths. Polley is only 33 and she's already become a hyphenate extraordinaire. There are few actors as talented as she is and none of them have written screenplays as mature as she has or directed documentaries as challenging and enjoyable as this one.
Ernest & Celestine by Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar,
& Benjamin Renner
Set for a 2013 release by US distributor GKids, Ernest & Celestine is based on the classic French children's book about the unlikely friendship between a bear and a mouse. While it is definitely geared toward kids, fans of animation will appreciate the water-color like beauty of the hand-drawn animation and the sweet tale and gentle humor is easy to appreciate. Cute without being cloying, Ernest & Celestine is another example of the growing crop of fine foreign animation.
Sightseers by Ben Wheatley
Okay, not everything was light today. Ben Wheatley's Sightseers was pitch black - but in the enjoyably sick and twisted way. Chris and Tina are a new couple who decide to take holiday together (largely, it seems, so Tina can get away from her overbearing mother, who still hasn't gotten over the loss of her dog one year ago). The trip is all planned out - they'll visit several historical sites in the north of England before returning home. Then, a sudden accident (or was it?) turns the trip into a bloodbath with a headcount that would put Scarface to shame. If you can stomach the violence, Sightseers is gloriously, hysterically wrong on every level.
The Sapphires by Wayne Blair
Based on a true story, The Sapphires is the musical tale of an aboriginal family of girls who want nothing more than to succeed as a girl group by auditioning for a tour in Vietnam singing for the troops. Important is the detail that Aboriginals were still, at this time, considered "fauna" by the Australian government and not citizens. This is a dressed-down Dreamgirls that honestly does things Dreamgirls tried, but failed, to accomplish. A coda, where we are introduced to the actual women whose life this is based upon, add weight to an otherwise "simply" enjoyable musical. Lotsa fun and Deborah Mailman as Gayle and Chris O'Dowd (Rhodes in Bridesmaids) truly standout. The Weinsteins still haven't set the release date for this yet, but expect it to be announced soon. Even the P&I crowd gave it applause.
More to come tomorrow.