[Manufactured Landscapes][Battle of Wits]

Sunday was Manufactured Landscapes, mostly because I had seen a trailer for it at the SIFF preview. It follows photographer Edward Burtynsky on a trip to China, where he takes large-scale photos of the effects of manufacturing. It’s alternately beautiful and depressing, showing both how we’ve taken from the earth and the waste we generate, in addition to the working conditions of the people who deal with all of these things.

It’s not didactic, which I appreciated. It doesn’t have to be.

Also Sunday I suddenly added five more movies to my schedule. The first new one was yesterday, Battle of Wits. It was uneven, with bits of pure cheese and terrible effects, but when it was good (the look & feel, which was surprisingly rough & textured for a story based on a comic, and of course everything Andy Lau did) it was awesome.

[Them][Monkey Warfare]

And now, for the film festival! I started with a midnight, and I haven’t recovered yet. Them, a French thriller about a couple who makes the mistake of living in a spooky old house in the woods & awakens one night to strange noises… dun dun dun. It’s gritty and effective, keeping the tension high by not ever showing too much. I guessed the twist early on, but that didn’t make it any less creepy.

It was preceeded by a short, “The Eyes of Edward James”, which didn’t do much for me.

The next day was Monkey Warfare, which I picked because it starred Don McKellar & Tracy Wright, both of whom are always worth watching. It’s an extremely low-budget film about a couple living off the grid in Toronto, and how their lives get shaken up by their new pot dealer. I liked it a lot. It’s different, but dirtied up enough to not be quirky. Also, the soundtrack & the final credits are awesome.

It also was preceeded by a short, “Order Up”, a dark comedy which starred Illeana Douglas and about half worked.

[Once]

Sundance favorite Once started screenings this month. I saw it at MOHAI, complete with a Q&A with the director & stars and a mini-concert, which was pretty awesome.

As for the movie itself, also awesome! It’s technically a musical, but as it’s about musicians it’s totally organic & real, not cheesy. I mean, I enjoy the cheese, but this isn’t that kind of a musical. Very touching & satisfying. Yay!

[The Host]

It occurred to me recently that I had totally forgotten to write up The Host. I mean, there are loads of things I haven’t managed to post about, but this one I flat-out skipped over, which is lame, because it was an awesome movie.

It’s a monster movie, yeah, but one with a great functioning disfunctional family, banding together to thwart the authorities & the monster to rescue their little girl, who is pretty darn tough herself. Good stuff.

[The Namesake]

Since I see basically all Fox Searchlight releases for free, it’s not surprising I found a screening of The Namesake. I had high hopes for it because it was directed by Mira Nair, but it was visually disappointing after her previous work. (Randomly, did you know that she was approached to direct a Harry Potter movie? I still think that would have been pretty awesome.)

I’ve not read the book, so I don’t know how it compares, but I did think all the performances were strong, except for Gogol’s love interests. Were they weak? Or did I just find their characters irritating? Six of one…

Irfan Khan & Tabu were amazing, though, as Gogol’s parents, and I was pleasantly surprised by Kal Penn’s performance. Overall compelling, but not required in-theater viewing.