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Monday, Sep 12, 2011
Quite uncomfortably, the film uses class stereotypes aggressively and persistently, relying upon them as scaffolding for this faux-existential narrative about awakening and self-actualization.

MY WORST NIGHTMARE
Director: Anne Fontaine
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Benoît Poelvoorde, André Dussollier, Virginie Efira
Country: France / Belgium


Agathe (the iconic Isabelle Huppert) is a cold, distant woman of a certain age. Dictatorial and unfriendly at home, and an impassable tyrant at work, Agathe flits about her life with confidence and poise but little human energy. She doesn’t speak with people; she makes speeches. Her much older husband (André Dussollier) deals with her lack of warmth with a healthy shot of resignation. His marriage is sexless and dull, but it’s no big deal once you’ve given up caring about such things, right?


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Monday, Sep 12, 2011
This is one of those documentaries designed to make you march out of the theatre and do something to change the world.

THE ISLAND PRESIDENT
Director: Jon Shenk
Cast: President Mohamed Nasheed, Aminath Shauna, Mohamed Aslam, Mark Lynas, Ahmed Naseem, Paul Roberts, Ahmed Shaheed
Country: USA


One of those documentaries designed to make you march out of the theatre and do something to change the world, this inspirational film follows the remarkable story of Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed, longtime freedom fighter and now President of the Maldives, a small archipelago of islands southwest of India. After spending 20 years resisting the brutal regime of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, spending hellish months and years in solitary confinement in a 3x7 foot corrugated iron cell, Nasheed managed to play an instrumental role in overthrowing the shackles of this dictatorship, spreading democracy and hope to every corner of his benighted country. But, almost as soon as he achieved this goal he was faced with a new, infinitely more powerful adversary: the rising ocean.


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Monday, Sep 12, 2011
This is a perfectly devastating Australian film about the horror of loss and the futility of refusing to face up to grief.

BURNING MAN
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Cast: Matthew Goode, Bojana Novakovic, Essie Davis, Kerry Fox, Rachel Griffiths, Jack Heanly
Country: Australia.


This is a perfectly devastating Australian film about the horror of loss and the futility of refusing to face up to grief. Impressively channeling a cross between a charmingly winning Hugh Grant and a smirky Colin Ferrell on a bender, Matthew Goode plays a man on the edge, the burning man of the title, shattered by a recent, but unspoken tragedy. He curses relentlessly, drinks excessively, womanizes voraciously, and meanwhile he fails to care for his son, neglects his work, and winds up in an horrific traffic accident.


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Thursday, Sep 8, 2011
A mix of art house experiments, mainstream confections, grand costume dramas, sex-soaked character studies, apocalyptic horror, intimate human drama, political satires, rock 'n' roll documentaries, and a little Werner Herzog for good measure.

There are hundreds of movies and just not nearly enough time. At best, and this is in itself a butt-numbing goal to have set for myself, I will sit through 30 films over the next ten days. I have mapped it all out, and things are looking good. A mix of art house experiments, mainstream confections, grand costume dramas, sex-soaked character studies, apocalyptic horror, intimate human drama, political satires, rock ‘n’ roll documentaries, and a little Werner Herzog for good measure.


But, it isn’t just films, of course. Half of the people I know who look forward to this festival every year are getting geared up for a little Canadian stargazing (which means slightly less effective stalkery but with free health care). There are parties, there are industry events, there are press conferences, red carpets, “secret concerts”, and all sorts of stuff you can do that is TIFF minus the actual seeing of films. I, as a rule, try to avoid most of this stuff. I don’t get invited to much, anyway, but even some of the stuff I do get the call for I will skip. Frankly, I’m always too exhausted from watching eight hours of movies that day and trying to write up five reviews before bed that night to think about trying to look cool by myself at a party. Let’s face it: getting drunk and maybe brushing past Emily Blunt would be awesome, but not that awesome.


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Monday, Apr 25, 2011
The Miners' Hymns issues a silent yet evocative reminder about labor economy.

Just about thirteen months ago, the company Massey Energy made its name world famous when an unfortunate tragedy occurred at one of their coal mines in West Virginia. Twenty-nine people lost their lives in an explosion. Massey, with its repeat violations, and other companies, through the practice of mountaintop removal, have been problematic for the universal image of the laborious miner. Pollution of the water table in West Virginia has pitted families against members over one of the communities’ few viable occupations. But without our miners’ tireless and dangerous work, our country, as well as other ones, would never have achieved the modern industrial state, let alone reached the industrial revolution.


The Miners’ Hymns by Bill Morrison combines archival footage from various British sources to stir up some melancholy for the heyday of mining. This film takes primarily black and white footage placed (sensationally if not accurately) chronologically to show the routine of the miner by day and the overall trend of mechanization in mining itself. Even without having previous knowledge of the film, a viewer of Morrison’s careful selection will come away understanding the strong and cohesive narrative. Miners move from home to workplace with apparent uniformity to their actions. But there is a moment a worker is free from the Taylorism as he kisses a lantern for good luck. Scenes of undulating coal and giant cogs turning transform into trucks involved in large scale mining.


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