Smoke Signals (1998)

“Some days it’s a good day to die; some days it’s a good day to play basketball.”—Victor Joseph Grim and grimmer.  That pretty much sums up most stories about Native people that make it into the media.  Just recently, an international report compared the Canadian government’s treatment of the Innu of Labrador to that of […]

Dark City (1998)

The urchins are writhing around in the mud, Like eels playing tag in a barrel The old Sally Army sound mournful and sweet As they play an old Chrssmassy carol; The world is as black as a dark night in hell What kind of a place can this be?           –Richard Thompson, “The Sun Never […]

The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

Eat crow, Panio.  You rented Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter (1997) in order to bury him, and instead you’re forced to spend this entire column praising him.  It’s so unfair.  Whatever happened to the old Atom, the director who was so sure of his omniscience that he fixed all his characters in elegant cinematic phrases […]

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Somewhere in the Kootenays.  The Mad Film Critic is alone in his study.  His graying hair spikes upward as if he’s permanently wired to a Van de Graaff generator.  He pounds his computer keyboard in frustration, unable to create the brilliant review of James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein that he needs to meet his deadline […]

Window to Paris (1993)

If your face is lopsided,                     don’t blame the mirror. –Russian proverb   You can like a video store that gets you the latest Academy Award winners or the most recent Jackie Chan flick.  You love a video store that also stocks the highest-grossing Russian comedy of 1993.  That’s what I call service.  Thanks, Darcy […]

Brazil (1985)

Sam Lowry:  Excuse me, Dawson, can you put me through to Mr. Helpmann’s office? Dawson:  I’m afraid I can’t sir.  You have to go through the proper channels. Sam Lowry:  And you can’t tell me what the proper channels are, because that’s classified information? Dawson:  I’m glad to see the Ministry’s continuing its tradition of […]

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

“While the law [of competition] may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department.” –Andrew Carnegie, The Gospel of Wealth, 1889 There is no shortage of exotic places for tragedies to play out.  Castles in Denmark and Scotland for Hamlet […]

Ponette (1996)

The kingdom of childhood.  I’ve no idea where that expression first appeared, but it sprang to mind anew as I watched Jacques Doillon’s Ponette (1996). I don’t know if I have ever watched a film that more thoroughly captures the world as seen through the eyes of young children. Half the credit must go to […]

All That Zazz (1979)

“vibrant but sometimes grotesque autobiographical story” “a vapid, vertiginous farrago” “everything from satyriasis to eschatology in a series of verbal grands jetés” “bite and bravado in equal doses” “acidulous”       –from reviews of Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz (1980)   Here’s a thought: What might your final days look like if Broadway or Hollywood got […]

Fires on the Plain (1959)

I’m not sure that I want to admit that Kon Ichikawa’s Fires on the Plain (1959) was one of the seminal films of my youth.  Ichikawa’s film is, after all, largely about war, death, dismemberment, and cannibalism.  Come to think of it, it might explain why I can be in my forties and still be […]