Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Canada Films Days at the Bookshelf Cinema

The Bookshelf Cinema is proud to announce the seventh annual Canada Film Days. Since 2007, our May program has featured some of the best recent works by Canadian filmmakers.

This year's CFD offerings play throughout the entire month at the Bookshelf, starting with the return of Sarah Polley's highly personal documentary, Stories We Tell, May 1-2.

On Friday, May 3 (6:45 p.m.), director Sean Garrity will be in attendance to introduce his critically-acclaimed feature, Blood Pressure, with a Q & A session to follow. Blood Pressure has two other screenings, May 8 and 9.

From May 10-16 we present Still Mine, starring Genevieve Bujold and James Cromwell, and directed by Michael McGowan (Saint Ralph, One Week).

As the month began with a highly personal documentary, so it concludes, with the Guelph premiere of Shawney Cohen's, The Manor. Mr Cohen will be in attendance for the May 31 opening of his film, which was recently chosen as the Opening Night Gala film for Toronto's HotDocs Festival.

- Peter

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Guelph Movie Club: Throw me the idol; I’ll throw you increasingly strained movie references

I’m excited for this one, friends. Episode 5 of Guelph Movie Club is Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Mark your calendars

Thursday, May 30th at 6:45 p.m. Please note the early start time.

Before the movie starts, I’ll be announcing the winning movie for Episode 6 (the short list should be ready for voting soon). After the movie, you'll have a chance to cast your ballot for Episode 7, so start thinking about what movie you’d like to see back on the big screen.

There’s normally a few of us who stay after the movie to have a pint in the Green Room and talk movies. You’re more than welcome to join us. A word to the wise: stay away from the bowl of dates.

Don’t forget to visit the Bookshelf Facebook and Twitter pages for voting and more details!

Till then, see you at the movies.

 - Danny W.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The May Program Is Coming and So Are Film Directors (Starting with Blood Pressure's Sean Garrity)

The May movie program will be printed and online in a few days, but here's a little advance notice. We are pleased to announce that Sean Garrity, director of the critically-acclaimed feature film Blood Pressure, will be at the Bookshelf Cinema on Friday, May 3. Sean will introduce the film and stay for a Q&A session afterward. Don't miss this opportunity to see a great new film from a talented director on the rise.

Blood Pressure is the first of three new Canadian films featured as part of our seventh annual Canada Film Days celebration.

Stay Tuned. More CFD updates to follow.

- Peter

Thursday, April 11, 2013

56 Up

"Give me a child for his first seven years," goes that hoary Jesuit maxim, "and I'll give you the man." This was the animating principle of the Up documentary series, which premiered in Britain in 1964. There have since been seven installments catching up with the initial kids. To the Jesuit saying I'd like also to introduce that tidbit of biological trivia about our cells regenerating every seven years. Watching 56 Up, I couldn't help wondering how stable are our identities, our cores? Do we all have some nugget of infrangible character at the helm of us, a mold that was set in those first seven years? How long/elastic are our tethers connecting us to our past, to that first essential swatch of life?

As fascinating an experiment as this series is, I can't help but feel a sense of cruelty underlying it. As the documentary catches up with each participant, it sums up the past fifty-six years of their life in about ten to fifteen minutes. In heartbreakingly quick cuts and juxtapositions we see the same human being state their youthful ambitions of love and success, then attempt them, then either achieve or revise their drives, and then anyway lose their best intentions to the burglary of circumstantial life. Of course all the subjects are very sober and thoughtful of the peaks and valleys they've traversed, because they've been able to digest those ups and downs in real time. But edited and whittled as it is, the abuses of life come to seem much more dramatic, incapacitating, a collection of loss and theft. As a youngish guy, the picture it presents of life as a meat grinder is daunting as hell.

Then add to this to the quantum notion of queering outcomes through the sheer process of observation. These are people who are forced to consider their lives in succinct seven-year packages. One has to wonder, too, how much of our lives is determined by a certain unawareness of our actions, of the ultimate teleology of our desires.

The documentary series is interesting in that it's self-aware, is about itself as much as it's about its subjects. It's interesting to watch the subjects disparage the documentary they're in, criticize its very ability to present a well-rounded picture of them. Should we trust the view of these life that the series presents, especially when the documentary itself is telling us not to? At the same time, we're made to wonder who is a better judge of our lives? Ourselves or everyone else?

As many of the subjects comment, the documentary started out as a social experiment executed along class and economic lines. What's interesting to see is that, while those influences do affect the ease with which kids get started, whatever strictures or lack thereof become somewhat irrelevant, as lately the economic screws have been put to just about everybody.

- Andrew

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

You Vote, or You Sleep with the Fishes

It’s just two weeks until Guelph Movie Club Episode 4: The Godfather (that's Thursday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m.--note the change in start time due to the length of the movie).

But now it’s your chance to go the mattresses for your favourite movie for Episode 5. We've put together a short list for the May GMC movie from the nominations you submitted at last month's Back to the Future screening, and your vote determines which one gets shown. Like we did last month, we’ll be announcing the movie for Episode 5 just before we show The Godfather. Here they are:
You can vote for which movie you'd like to see in May by taking this GMC poll (Ignore the "New Message" Ad at the top of the poll screen; just choose a movie, click Submit, and you're done!):

May the best movie win!

A few notes on the poll: You don't have to have a Facebook account to vote from a computer, although you will need one to vote from a mobile device. (If you're on a mobile device without a Facebook account, you can mail in your vote to bruce [at] bookshelf.ca. Next month we'll move to a poll utility that doesn't require you to log in on computers or mobile devices.) If you are taking the online poll
, just choose a movie and click Submit. You can only vote for one movie, and you can only vote once. Voting will close Thursday, April 18th at 11:30 p.m. Oh, and don't forget to think about what movie you'd like to see at the June GMC showing, because in addition to announcing the winning movie for May at the Godfather screening, we'll also be taking your nominations for the June movie.

Never heard of Guelph Movie Club? Follow along starting with our first blog entry.

Last time, a few of us met up early (and stayed late) for a drink at the eBar and Green Room to chat about movies. We’d love to have you join us.

Till then, see you at the movies,

- Danny W.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Gem-Hunting in the Dark

I’m always excited to peruse the month’s cinema schedule, but this month I’m particularly excited. Looking at the schedule, you might wonder why—after the first week of April, no sleeper blockbuster like Quartet, no big-budget digital showcase like Life of Pi, no Oscar-winning documentary like Searching for Sugarman. But that’s exactly why I’m itching to get in the popcorn line. Instead of stuff (even great stuff) that you might catch in the cineplex—Though why would you when you could support your local indie cinema?—for the rest of the month the programming is full of those wonderful gems whose shine usually gets drowned out by the media glare that’s trained on the latest blockbusters.

The thing that indie bookstores and cinemas do that chains and cineplexes don’t is to introduce you to the book or movie you didn’t know you’d love, and this month is full of potential cinematic trysts, from Leviathan, a cutting-edge documentary that chronicles the blood and rough beauty of life inside an industrial fishing trawler, to The Gatekeepers, which gives a previously-unreachable perspective on Middle East politics from inside one of the most efficient and secretive security organizations in the world, Israel’s Shin Bet. Or, on the fiction side, we range from the Godfather, the classic American immigrant film that is both startlingly violent and unexpectedly moving, to No, a Chilean film about an advertiser who helped a crowd of overly-earnest leftists use marketing to fight a dictator.

But there are two films I’m especially excited about. The first is the Essential Cinema screening of Wim Wenders’s Wings of Desire, a film that is achingly beautiful and romantic—and by romantic, I’m referring to the deeper sense of that word, in which love is a bold leap (or, in this case, fall) whose joy is intensified and purified by the acceptance of its inescapable transience. It’s no accident that in order to fall in love, the angel Damiel also has to fall into time, or that this blooming relationship between celestial being and sublunary trapeze artist is set in the bleak, wall-scarred landscape of cold-war Berlin, “the front line of the last gasp,” as Bruce Cockburn put it. The result is a visual and verbal poem that seduces the eye and stirs the heart. People who love cinema usually fall hard for it.

The second film this week that I’m eagerly anticipating (which, now that I think about it, also focuses on time), is 56 Up, director Michael Apted’s latest installment in what is commonly acknowledged to be one of the greatest documentary projects ever undertaken. In 1964, Apted was a researcher for a British documentary film called Seven Up! which followed twenty seven-year-olds from a broad spectrum of social classes and situations. Since then, he has checked in with fourteen of the children every seven years and made a series of documentaries based on where they are at in their lives, following them through education and work, achieved ambitions and lost dreams, long-lasting marriages and personal disasters. Those children are now 56, and watching their lives unfold over the course of the eight films and fifty years suggests so much not only about the individual paths of the participants, but about life itself and what determines how we negotiate it. The Up films provide endless fodder for conversation about people, eras, and ideas. If you’re hopping in at this point in the series, no worries; Apted gives introductions to each of the people in his films as he goes, and you can always catch up either before or after the film by renting the films from your friendly independent video store or browsing about on the web.

See you at the cinema!

- Bruce

Wings of Desire: Tuesday 8:30, Wednesday 6:30
56 Up: Thursday 6:30, Saturday & Sunday 1:30

Monday, April 1, 2013

Life of Pi

The only essay I wrote during my lit undergrad that I didn't think was pure bunk was a post-war Canadian fiction piece on Life of Pi. Like myself at the time, the paper was bloated and rambling and never quite figured out what it meant to say. Whatever point there was had something to do with the significance of pi as a mathematical concept within Yann Martel's story about a story. Here's the gist: pi is a number that prattles into infinity, seemingly without pattern, on account of it attempts to describe a perfect circle which, because of molecular stubble, does not exist in nature. Pi, then, describes a desire for perfection and order in a rough and unwieldy reality. And in the same twelve-or-so pages I tried to argue the relevance of animal fable and polytheistic religions as they relate to that mathematical concept, and how the lot of these concepts explain the text of Life of Pi.

I take a bit of heart in seeing these ideas reflected in Ang Lee's film. It's almost as though my education wasn't analogous to turning a pile of money into a pyre.

If you're among the few who didn't read Martel's book back in the early oughts, here's a survey of the story: we have young Pi Patel, short for Piscine. He's a kid "keen on God." In each religion he finds some relevance, though his interest in all religions confuses the adults in his life, who believe he should find one God and settle. "All religions are true," he quotes. "I just want to love God." His family owns a zoo in Pondicherry, but is selling it to move to Canada. En route, the cargo ship carrying them and their menagerie goes down. Pi, along with a few of his aforementioned animals--a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a tiger--are seemingly the sole survivors. Pi's story purports to be one that will make a person believe in God.

 "Telling stories is highly recommended," recommends the survival manual Pi finds on the lifeboat he uneasily shares with his tiger, Richard Parker. And that's what we have in Life of Pi: stories. Regardless of the merits of Martel's book, I think it's its unabashed love and belief in stories that so hooked people. It's a tad presumptuous to presume that 9/11 had anything to do with the book's reception and juggernaut success, but I think there is something to that. The violence of that event was so egregious, and our own North American reality was so shaken, that the running sentiment was that fiction or entertainment or art of any kind were somehow irresponsible in its wake. But I think the recommendation of Pi's manual is absolute. Times have always been tough--one might say that "toughness" is a perennial quality of life--and stories have always been a means of swallowing and digesting that sometimes unfathomable toughness. In times of troubling randomness, we seek stories of order; in times riddled with flaw, we root out perfect stories.

In Lee's film, the imperfect scenario of tragedy resides within the perfect world of its Oscar-winning cinematography. There was some controversy over whether or not such digitally-crafted visuals deserve a cinematography recognition--and I somewhat side with these concerns--but what are, effectively, the paintings of Pi adrift are stunning, and rich, and lonely. There's no assurance that Pi's story will make you believe in God, but it goes a long way to explain the want or need to believe, to glean order and intention in the world, to smooth out that stubbly circle.

- Andrew