Wednesday 11 December 2013

GKCTT 2013 - The Greg Klymkiw Canadian Top Ten - Klymkiw's Choices For The BEST in Canadian Cinema

The Greg Klymkiw Canadian
Top Ten Features of 2013
(in alphabetical order)

BlackBird - Dir. Jason Buxton
A harrowing indictment of repressive hate laws in the hands of the Status Quo as a weapon against individuality and free speech. A directorial debut that dazzles! Every step of the way, filmmaker Buxton grips the audience. It's a superb narrative - designed to reel us in - affixed to the hook no matter how much we thrash in protest.

Continental - Dir. Malcolm Ingram
With this film, director Ingram has hit the stratosphere and delivered the tale of legendary gay rights activist and business man Steven Ostrow who created the famed Continental steam bath in NYC. Ingram achieves this with clarity, a wonderful sense of celebration and good old fashioned solid filmmaking. He delivers a sense of time, place and history and by the end of the film, he generates a work that is chock-full of elation and yes, one that is genuinely, deeply and profoundly moving. Ingram aimed for the stratosphere with this one and damned if he doesn't blast right through the celestial fucker.

Le démantèlement - Dir. Sebastien Pilote
Starring the legendary Gabriel Arcand as a Quebec sheep farmer, writer-director Pilote extraordinarily blends a neo-realist sensibility with the sort of pace one must take while appreciating a great work of visual art and as such, renders a truly great motion picture. Painstaking in its detail the film recreates the drudgery of farm life and its tragic "dismantlement". I defy any audience member to NOT be moved to tears on several occasions throughout this emotionally devastating film.

15 Reasons To Live - Dir. Alan Zweig
Inspired by Ray Robertson's book, Zweig chose to document real stories based upon the fifteen chapter headings - Love, Solitude, Critical Mind, Art, Individuality, Home, Work, Humour, Friendship, Intoxication, Praise, Meaning, Body, Duty and Death. This is a film that brings together everything that makes Zweig's work so goddamn special; all the compassion, humour and humanity your heart could possibly desire in a perfectly cohesive package celebrating life itself.

The Ghosts In Our Machine - Dir. Liz Marshall
Liz Marshall's powerful documentary portrait of activist animal photographer Jo-Anne McArthur is a genuinely harrowing journey into the souls of animals and the hideous torture perpetrated upon them for no other reason than filthy lucre. It's a film that showcases McArthur's artistic process which includes dangerous night raids upon illegal compounds where animals are kept in disgusting conditions. You'll not doubt the horror after seeing it!

Jingle Bell Rocks! - Dir. Mitchell Kezin
Filmmaker Mitchell Kezin always thought he was the only person in the world obsessed with obscure Christmas records until he made this funny, touching film about his virtually fetishistic desire to discover choice vinyl in second-hand music stores in every nook and cranny of North America. His incredible journey yielded a massive underground of similarly fixated deviants. We also meet the legendary Bob Dorough, Clarence Carter and a myriad of other unlikely performers of even MORE unlikely Christmas music.

The Last Pogo Jumps Again - Dir. Colin Brunton, Kire Papputts
This EPIC Documentary on the history of Punk Rock in Toronto will speak to anyone and everyone who lived in a place and time where an iconoclastic music scene was the tie to bind all those who were mad as hell and couldn't take the boring Status Quo anymore! I embraced the crazy, scrappy, downright dangerous insanity of this terrific documentary and fully accepted its body, its blood - like an unholy sacrement drained and scourged from the everlasting soul of Sid Vicious himself who died, NOT for OUR sins, but for his own and for the rest of us who were willing to commit our own - no matter how heinous or benign.

The Manor - Dir. Shawney Cohen
So you're a six-year-old red-blooded male and your Dad buys a strip club attached to a dive hotel and it becomes the family business wherein you, your little brother and Mom pitch in with Le meilleur club pour les messieurs dans le sud de l'Ontario. A quarter century later, you look around and see your patriarchal 400-pound Dad brashly bullying his way through life, your gentle subservient 85-pound Mom hiding further and further within herself, your baby brother dreaming of owning his own strip club and dating the "help" and you think, is there something wrong with this picture? Is there something wrong with me? Then you gaze in the mirror and see someone who has not lived up to his potential. So you make this great film!

Oil Sands Karaoke - Dir. Charles Wilkinson
Director Charles Wilkinson and producer Tina Schliessler return to the subject of energy and environmental devastation in their engaging and surprisingly buoyant followup to the powerful "PEACE OUT". This time, the energy is with Oil Sands workers letting off steam in a local karaoke joint. The environment continues to be assaulted, but this time, the filmmakers put a genuinely human face to the devastation of the planet. The picture is quite unlike any documentary about the environment that you'll ever see. It's about the people. To paraphrase Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life", Wilkinson's film sheds light upon all those "who do most of the living and dying in this town." It can't get more environmental than that.

-tied with-

Special Ed - Dir. John Paskievich
Initially conceived as an artist's portrait of another artist, Paskievich ended up following a gifted animator for three years and charting Ed Ackerman's hopes and dreams - the most insanely brilliant being his attempts at renovating 100-year-old core area properties as legacies for his children and to also set-up an animation school and studio. Paskievich's resolve to stick with Ackerman over this period no doubt generated a mountain of footage (that he shot himself). Sadly, what we are witness to is how Ackerman tried to do something visionary in a climate of greed and provincialism that's gripped and pretty much come close to destroying the City of Winnipeg. And this is what Paskievich so brilliantly and movingly captures above all - heartbreak.

When Jews Were Funny - Dir. Alan Zweig
Zweig interviews a raft of Jewish comics about Jewishness and its relation to humour. The real journey Zweig takes is the most profoundly moving element of the film. We are all haunted by those things that shaped us in our youth. The reality of how things change; fleeting, flickering ghosts that dissipate, make us long for those things that once were tangible, that now reside only in our spirit. If anything, we’re all God's children. We share Zweig's desire to hold onto the past for dear life through the special eyes of His chosen people.

The Greg Klymkiw Top Canadian
Short (or mid-length) Films of 2013
(in alphabetical order)

The Auctioneer - Dir. Hans Olson
This National Film Board of Canada (NFB) production follows the tradition of the Direct Cinema movement (first developed by Quebecois NFB types) and the closely related cinéma vérité in its desire to capture reality as it unfolds before the camera. The film's virtues are many - most notably in terms of both narrative and form - happily yielding a finely wrought, delicate and extraordinary portrait of farm life on the Canadian prairies.

The Closest Thing To Heaven - Dir. Ryan Bruce Levey
In nine minutes, filmmaker Ryan Bruce Levey delivers his deeply moving film wherein the impact is as profound and layered as a lifetime. In spite of the title, Levey moves beyond the notion of being close to Heaven. His film, his subjects and most importantly, his audience are given a great gift - in nine minutes we rise ever-so sweetly, we soar with humour, elation and love, until Levey continues to work the magic of cinema, hitting all the thrust controls, allowing us to be jettisoned to a place that feels like Heaven itself.

The Guest - Dir. Jovanka Vuckovic
This simple, creepy take on the ages-old Faustian nightmare is yet another visually sumptuous gem from Vuckovic. She continually astounds. Her eye is impeccable, her short films are lovely works unto themselves, they never have that Canadian whiff of "Calling Card" to them and they are embodied with the kind of maturity and life experience that creates (and will continue to create) genre films with substance to add body to the shocks. Just when we think we know where this grotesque bon bonging, Vuckovic takes us there with heart-stopping images that are as beautiful as they are mind fuckingly sickening.

The Last Videostore - Dir. Cody Kennedy, Tim Rutherford
A super hilarious film-geek wet dream that brings the magic of brick and mortar video rental stores to life and most of all, reminds us of the incalculable joy of analogue picture and sound. A first rate score, effects (a goodly whack of them from Canada's leading F/X whiz Steven Kostanski) and superb comic performances plunge us into the warm and fuzzy world most of us should have fought to the death to preserve for future generations.

Packing Up The Wagon: The Last Days Of Wagon Wheel Lunch
- Dir. Mike Maryniuk, John Scoles
Heartbreak is at the core of this touching and poetic look at the decimation of a Winnipeg institution by the city's loser politicians and captains of industry. Wagon Wheel Lunch was a midday home away from home to thousands of Winnipeggers over its 50-year history. Lovingly prepared homemade food in an unpretentious locale nestled on one of the few downtown Winnipeg streets NOT destroyed to build a useless mall. And now, it's gone - like everything special in this city dying a horrible death. Winnipeg bursts at the seams with ghosts. The living and the dead become one in this gem.

Portrait as a Random Act of Violence - Dir. Randall Okita
The best short film from any country to screen at this year's Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2013 - a gorgeous, powerful, expressionistic and sumptuously experimental visual poem which, examines the relationship between the artist, creation of art and the violence of the imagination. A staggeringly monumental achievement.

Silent Garden - dir. Dylan Reibling
This ode to the transition from live vaudeville theatre to cinema, lovingly recreates a time when cinema was in its most delicate and truly imaginative stages of development. This is a work of raw beauty and power that could well have been made in those halcyon days of genuine exploratory artistic celebration.

The Vehicle - Dir. O. Corbin Saleken
This is one of the loveliest two-handers I've seen in some time. Simple, careful direction, profoundly moving lead performances and a screenplay so sweet and heartbreaking, yet infused with a touch of malevolence and the kind of graceful melancholy that typified so much of the great writing from such stalwarts as Richard Matheson during the original five years of Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone".

Wakening - Dir. Danis Goulet
A major-league babe armed with a deadly crossbow in a post-apocalyptic hell faces a monster that feeds on human flesh. In spite of the creature's predilection for delectable culinary treats offered up by mankind, we quickly learn that it might well be the only thing that can save the thing it craves and battle the scourge that's wreaked havoc on the Earth. A hot babe, a decimated landscape, Police State goons and monsters! What's not to like?

Winter Garden dir. Alex Epstein
The snap, crackle and pop of showbiz drama and comedy comes alive with considerable charm in this lovely amalgam of backstage Busby Berkeley musicals, Woody Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway" and the flavour of the great Neil Simon. Fine, crisp writing and a manic, muscular performance from Enrico Colantoni generate a hugely entertaining homage to a time when theatre ruled popular drama.

Individual Accolades

Best Director (Canada) - Alan Zweig
15 Reasons to Live, When Jews Were Funny

Best Director (Quebec) - Sébastien Pilote
Le démantèlement

Gabriel Arcand
Le démantèlement

Robert Nolan
Silent Retreat

Jennifer Podemski
Empire of Dirt

Best Actress (Supporting)
Sophie Desmarais
Le démantèlement

Sébastien Pilote
Le démantèlement

Shannon Masters
Empire of Dirt

Michel La Veaux
Le démantèlement

Stéphane Lafleur
Le démantèlement

Michael Zweig
When Jews Were Funny

Septic Man - Dir. Jesse Thomas Cook
Plumbing is exactly what this picture is all about. Deep within the bowels of a factory's sewers, an infection sets in, and an ace septic man begins to transform into something utterly hideous and horrific - something bordering, perhaps, on the immortal. Not unlike a number of seminal low budget cult films - David Lynch's "Eraserhead" in particular - "Septic Man" roams into nightmarish and hallucinogenic territory. The title character's lonely odyssey leads to a series of secret underground pipes and tunnels cluttered with corpses and body parts. Trapped in a Knossos-like maze of filth he encounters two clearly inbred psychopaths as he slowly turns into a walking, talking pile of pus and excrement. Avoid eating Indian or Mexican cuisine and load up on Tums for your tummy before dipping your toe into this exquisite cinematic cesspool of scary, brazenly foul scatological horror.