There may not be that much snow on the ground in Montreal today, but the city looked more Christmasey earlier this month. That’s when local country folk rock and roller Jesse Stone and some musician friends braved the cold on Mount Royal’s lookout to bring some holiday cheer to the people who were there and now, via video, the rest of us.

This pop-up show consisted of one song with one message: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. So what better time for us to share that message with you.

Enjoy!

Adapted from Eileen Atkin’s 1994 play of the same name, Vita and Virginia is based on the real-life romance between aristocratic socialite and author Vita Sackville-West and literary icon Virginia Woolf. With a scandalous romance, the glamour of the 1920s, and famous works of literature, Vita and Virginia’s story in the right hands could have been a very special film. Unfortunately, despite some strong acting and beautiful cinematography, this film is an uneven mess that never quite comes together.

When we first meet Vita (Gemma Arterton) it’s hammered into us that she’s a thoroughly modern woman; she drives her own car, wears pants, declares proudly that “Independence has no sex.” When Vita goes to a party hosted by, as her mother (Isabella Rosselini) describes,  “bohemian communist socialists” that she meets the elusive Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki). 

It’s made clear from their first meeting that their relationship will be a sexual one; Vita observes Virginia dancing from across the room with a decidedly male gaze. Virginia, as the object of desire, acknowledges that gaze and welcomes it.

Arterton and Debicki do what they can to save the film with their performances. Arterton is more than capable of showcasing the charm and insatiable lust of Vita, who while in an open marriage, had affairs with both men and women alike. And Debicki (who should have broken out after the criminally under-seen Widows) gives the strongest performance in the film. She is so good here she makes you forget all about a certain Australian actress who won an Oscar for portraying the same woman.

But despite these performances, the film falls apart under the direction of Chanya Button. While the melodic electro score (by Isobel Waller-Bridge) is beautiful and perhaps meant to show these women were not of their time, it takes you out of the story. The same goes for the decision to have the women read their letters to each other aloud while looking directly at the camera. It’s overly stagey and completely unnecessary. 

And then there’s the magical realism that’s thrown in to show Virginia’s increasingly unstable mental state. If it had been used all throughout the film perhaps it would have made more sense, but only used a few times it doesn’t work. Not to mention that Debicki is a more than capable performer who could have showcased Virginia’s bipolar disorder without a scene where a flock of birds who aren’t really there attack her.

The real-life Vita and Virginia continued a friendship long after their romance fizzled, until Virginia’s death in 1941, which for some reason, Button decided not to mention in the final title card was a suicide, although Virginia talks about death throughout the film.

Their relationship inspired one of Virginia’s most popular books, Orlando. If you’re curious about these fascinating women and their influence on each other, I recommend you read that book (or see the 1992 Tilda Swinton film adaptation) instead.

J. J. Abrams, you had one job…and you pulled it off. The Rise of Skywalker is both an epic end to the nine film Skywalker Saga that hits all the right emotional punches and at the same time a visually stunning and fun movie that works as a cap to the current trilogy’s character arcs.

Well, not completely in regards to the current trilogy, but more on that later. For now, let’s dive in with a MAJOR SPOILER WARNING in full effect:

Rey and Emperor Palpatine

Star Wars in general, and the Skywalker Saga in particular, has always been, at least at the highest levels, about good versus evil, or more specifically the Jedi versus the Sith. In The Rise of Skywalker, we get all the Jedi, through Rey (Daisy Ridley) finally destroying all of the Sith in the form of previously dead Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).

McDiarmid delivers as always and fully embodies absolute evil and Rey is finally paired with an opponent who matches her albeit newly confirmed importance in the Force. The big reveal that she is his granddaughter makes sense and adds to the finale.

Her choice at the end to go by the name Skywalker delivers the right emotional punch to cap off nine movies. At the same time, Ridley’s performance was on point and helped Rey’s character arc come to a solid completion.

If these story choices sound like “too much fan service” as I have seen in other posts, well, I’m a fan and feel properly served. It’s the only way this saga should have ended.

I saw the movie on the preview night and I’m still thinking about it. That’s what Star Wars should do.

Farewell Leia

This movie was also the end of Leia’s story. In fact, it was originally supposed to involve the Princess turned General quite a bit, a task that seemed next to impossible to accomplish after the incomparable Carrie Fisher passed away.

Yet, with just a bit of unused footage from The Force Awakens, one use of a body double and some seriously clever scripting and shooting, Abrams was able to make Leia a major character in this movie. Honestly, her inclusion only looks slightly off twice.

He also gave Leia’s character a proper farewell. While it was doubly sad given that Fisher is no longer with us, it really worked.

Kylo or Ben, Doesn’t Matter

The only major arc I really didn’t buy was Kylo Ren’s redemption story.  To be honest, I never really liked him as a villain or as a match for Rey.

She’s way out of his league both in terms of Force powers and romantically. That kiss was cringy (and I’ve seen Empire), but at least she got to defeat Palpatine on her own.

Ben getting closure with his parents was good, and the Harrison Ford cameo was cool and probably cost Disney a ton of cash. He didn’t need closure with Rey, though.

Fast and Funny

The comedy was on point. This movie managed to bring the humour that is integral to any good Star Wars film.

You even got the feeling that you were in the middle of a comedic adventure story. New characters, aka old characters, like Lando (Billy Dee Williams) just melded in. The best comedic moment coming when Leia asked the random resistance fighter to be more positive.

Sure, it was juxtaposed with all the epic drama, but it seemed properly balanced. My only complaint would have to be that some of it seemed rushed.

I Now Like The Last Jedi Less

It seems like the only major problems I have with this movie are actually issues with the last Star Wars Skywalker Saga Film The Last Jedi. While I may have been in the camp that approved of Rian Johnson’s entry in the franchise, I now see how much better this movie could have been if the last one had been different.

In particular, the ex-stormtrooper crew we first meet near the end of the film and Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell) and Babu Frik who we meet soon before are very interesting characters. If we had met them during TLJ instead, those parts might not have seemed so rushed here.

Also, all that Force Skyping between Rey and Kylo really seemed cheesy under Johnson’s direction, but here, it works. Hell, they even have a lightsaber fight without even being in the same room.

J.J. solved the problems that persisted from the previous entry and delivered what I would consider to be the best entry in the current trilogy and a solid end to the saga.

Job well done!

Anne + is a web series where Anne (Hanna van Vliet) has just moved into her first grown-up apartment after graduating university in Amsterdam. While out on an errand, she runs into her ex-girlfriend and first love Lily (Eline van Gils). The encounter makes her ruminate on her ever-evolving dating life since their break up four years earlier.

Split into six stories running about ten minutes each, the episodes explore how all of Anne’s relationships have helped define the person she has become. While the main character is queer, the relationship issues she experiences are universal; your first big romance fizzling out, falling in love with someone who just wants to be casual (or the other way around), being attracted to someone’s wild personality but then getting overwhelmed by it.

The series is run by Maud Wiemeijer and Valerie Bisscheroux, two Dutch lesbians who wanted to create more authentic media for queer women. And in that goal they absolutely succeed; although your window into each of Anne’s relationships is brief, they feel real and lived in. And each episode builds off the last so, by the end, you really feel like a world has been created.

My personal favourite episode was Anne+ Esther, where she has an affair with an older boss. After a devastating infatuation with a woman who didn’t love her back, Anne is giddy sleeping with Esther (Kirsten Mulder). She’s getting off on the secrecy of it all and assumes Esther just wants to keep things casual. Especially since she’s already in an open but committed relationship with someone else. But when she discovers that’s not the case, now it’s Anne’s turn to let someone down. 

The series really works because of the appeal of its lead, Hanna van Vliet. She’s a character you immediately root for, even when she dumps sweet Lily for wild Janna, or feels no shame about sleeping with her married boss.

While there are a few supporting characters that show up throughout the season like her friends Casper (Alex Hendrickx) and Jip (Jade Olieberg) it’s mostly Anne who carries this show, and van Vliet does easily. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Anne’s exploits (they’re currently filming season two) in the future. 

You can watch all of the Anne + episodes (some of the episodes already have subtitles, other episodes you have to fiddle with the settings) on the show’s official English website

Swedish filmmaker Levan Akin’s third feature And Then We Danced is about sensitive dancer Merab (real-life dancer Levan Gelbakhiani making an impressive acting debut) coming to terms with his homosexuality in the conservative, hyper-masculine world of Georgian dance. While that may sound like a giant bummer, the film manages to retain a sweet optimism throughout. 

When we first meet Merab, his dance instructor is chastising him for being ‘soft’. It’s clear that while Merab is extremely passionate about dance, he doesn’t quite fit in this world. He’s too expressive with his movements, too sensual.

But still, Merab is desperate to please. He comes from a long line of dancers and despite his father’s warnings that the profession can destroy you, wants to take it seriously.

Merab’s life changes when newcomer Irakli (Bachi Valishivili) arrives. Irakli is brash, talks back to the instructor, and immediately becomes a rival for dance numbers.

They eventually do become friends, and then more, when members of the dance troupe go away together for the weekend. I mean who wouldn’t want to experiment with their sexuality when you’re drinking wine and dancing to Robyn shirtless in the woods? 

Lesser films would have focused solely on the melodrama of Merab and Irakli’s ill-fated romance. Yes, Merab is devastated at how it works out, but the story isn’t focused on that.

The real focus is about how that experience helps him become the man he’s truly meant to be: He meets some new like-minded friends and has an epic night out. He’s able to come clean to his longtime dance partner/sort-of girlfriend Mary (Ana Javakishvilli) about who he really is.

But most importantly, Merab dances the way he wants to dance, not the way his instructors have tried to drill into him. There’s no big Flashdance moment where Merab impresses the dance company so much they completely change their minds about him, but as he walks offscreen for the last time, you can’t help but feel it’s off to a much better future.

An adaptation of Fiona Shaw’s novel, Tell it to the Bees has plenty going for it. There’s a strong cast, led by Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger, beautiful Scottish countryside locations, and dreamy period costumes.

While there’s nothing revolutionary here (small-town people were prejudiced in the 20th century!), for most of the film the story works. That is until the unfortunate third act, where the screenwriters lean into the outdated cliche that a story like this can only end in tragedy and sadness.

At the beginning of the film, we’re introduced to a grown-up Charlie (voiced by Billy Boyd, heard but never seen) as he reflects on growing up in Scotland in the 1950s. There we meet young Charlie (Gregor Selkirk) who’s being bullied at school. After a fight with his schoolmates, Charlie is brought to the local doctor by family member Annie (Outlander’s Lauren Lyle).

It is here Charlie meets Dr. Jean Markham (Paquin) who has just inherited her father’s medical practise and estate. Sensing that Charlie needs more than just medical care, she befriends the young lad, eventually becoming friends with his mother Lydia (Grainger) as well.

Both Lydia and Jean aren’t new to town gossip: Lydia is in the middle of splitting up with Charlie’s dad Rob (Emun Elliot) and Jean left town many years earlier after she was caught kissing another woman.

As Lydia and Jean’s relationship progresses, especially after Lydia becomes Jean’s housekeeper and she and Charlie move into Jean’s house, the town becomes increasingly hostile towards them. But even so, the two women find themselves falling in love.

Paquin and Grainger have excellent chemistry together; their scenes are without a doubt the highlight of the film. When they do finally consummate their relationship, it’s a moment that both feels earned and is very sexy without getting too Blue is the Warmest Color.

And then the unfortunate third act arrives. A film that spent most of its time being a gentle love story suddenly has moments of rape, domestic violence, and a scene where Annie is forced to get an abortion after her family discovers she’s gotten pregnant by a coloured man.

There was no reason for this horrific scene except to ramp up the melodrama and it feels really forced. Eventually, Jean and Lydia are separated for good, and as an audience member, we’re left wondering why we spent time investing in this relationship in the first place.

Tell it to the Bees plays at Université Concordia Cinéma Alexandre de Sève on November 24th as part of IMAGE+NATION and is available to watch on Netflix.

Returning for its 32nd edition, the LGBTQ Film Festival Image+Nation will be running from November 21st to December 1st in downtown Montreal.

“As we live through times of social change in the world, image+nation 32 proudly brings new films from countries that share stories through LGBTQ cinema’s newest voices,” states Programming Director, Katharine Setzer, “with an emergence of exciting Eastern-European filmmaking, the cream of local talent, and even a pioneering Guatemalan production, this year, more than ever, we’re bringing the best new and innovative storytelling to Montreal.”

Below are five films that I’m looking forward to seeing at this year’s festival.

This is Not Berlin

Hari Sama’s semi-autobiographical epic of adolescence in 1980s Mexico City. Outsider Carlos (Xabiani Ponce De León) finds his life changed when he gets swept up in a punk-filled world of sexual liberty and drugs. Navigating the storms of his sexual awakening in the process, Carlos finds himself faced with a choice; the comforting inclusiveness of popularity, or being true to himself.

Tell it to the Bees

Charlie, a young boy in 1950s Scotland befriends the new doctor in town, Dr. Jean Markham. Concerned about this relationship, Charlie’s recently single mother Lydia confronts the doctor.

When she subsequently falls on hard times, Dr. Jean invites her to come work for her and live in her home. While Lydia begins as Dr. Jean’s cleaning lady, the relationship quickly becomes something more when the women realize their undeniable chemistry.

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street

This documentary explores how 1980s horror films, in particular Nightmare on Elm Street, were in part a backlash against Reagan conservatism and the terrors of the AIDS epidemic.

The Prince

Based on a pulp novel, this 1970s homoerotic prison drama follows Jamie, a new inmate who gets the nickname “The Prince” by an older inmate he forms a friendship with.

Vita and Virginia

A fictionalized version of the real-life romance between London socialite and popular author Vita Sackville-West and literary icon Virginia Woolf.

Image+Nation runs November 21 through December 1, tickets and full schedule available through image-nation.org

Hey you! Looking for some shows to see this weekend, but can’t figure out what to see? Well you’ve come to the right place. Take a gander, or stay awhile, and check out some of these shows happening in our lovely city this week!

Thursday, November 7th: THe LYONZ

THe LYONZ, a Montreal-based DJ/production duo and art collective have just released their newest single, Fall. THe LYONZ had released their debut album Peace Beyond the Pines in 2015.

The muti-talented duo’s work reflects a focus on hip-hop and electronic sounds, but their musical style is diverse and also weaves in touches of jazz, reggae, house, and funk.

The group will be performing this Thursday at Bar Loic, so check out their show and hear their newest single, live! 

THe LYONZ perform every Thursday at Bar Loic, 5001 Notre Dame Ouest, from 10pm to 3am. Entry is free! Check out the Facebook event for more info.

Thursday, November 7th: Jade Bird

Jade Bird is a 22 year old songwriter and musician from the UK, which makes her wistfully soulful Americana sound all the more a pleasantly surprising plot twist. Her debut EP, Something American, hits the nail on the head, and her most recent release, Lottery, has already blown up.

Her music rests on the edge of indie pop and hints to country and folk. Its charming emotional introspective character plays like a glance into her own soul at the junction of traditional story-telling genres and a more contemporary indie sound. 

Jade Bird plays Theatre Fairmount, 5240 Avenue du Parc. Doors open at 7pm. You can purchase tickets through the Theatre Fairmount website.

Friday & Saturday, November 8-9th: Barfly’s 23rd Anniversary Party

Local hole in the wall, (but not fly on the wall!), Barfly, will be celebrating its 23rd anniversary this weekend with two separate shows featuring some of your favorite local bands!

The Friday show will feature Dead Messenger, Ian Blurton’s Future Now, and the Enchanters, and the Saturday show will include performances from the Fast Food Fairies, Ashtray Heart, and the Pop Sicles.

The shows will begin at 9pm for both days, but since Barfly is also doing a 23rd anniversary happy hour special from 4pm to 9pm, it might be in your best interests to get there a little early. 

Barfly’s 23rd anniversary party will take place at Barfly, 4062a St. Laurent Blvd, on Friday and Saturday. No ticket necessary!

Saturday, November 9th: Ghostemane

Florida-man, Eric Whitney, known professionally as Ghostemane, is a modern-day pioneer of the metal hip-hop genre, though perhaps that goes without saying. Ghostemane’s music career began with him playing in hardcore punk and doom metal bands, but he’s since transitioned to producing his own sound that seamlessly fuses together hip-hop and metal in dark and unexpected ways that are sure to chill your spine. 

Ghostemane plays Mtelus, 59 Sainte Catherine St. E. Doors at 6pm, show starts at 7:30pm. You can get your tickets through evenko.

Are you or your band playing a show in Montreal? Let us know at music@forgetthebox.net. We’ll do our best to include you in an upcoming Shows This Week, but, of course, no promises.

Another week, more shows to see! Keep on reading to find out which shows you just can’t miss this week.

Saturday, November 2nd: Crumb

If you find that psychedelic rock is your bread butter, don’t miss this Crumb (performance happening on Saturday). If you’ve been having a less-than-stellar past week, you may find a Crumb of comfort in the soft psychedelic lullabies of indie-rock band, Crumb.

Yes, I made two bread puns and they were both kind of crumby, perhaps I can offer up a crumb of solace in the fact that the show will definitely be better than these puns?

All of that aside, the American indie-rock band just released their debut full-length album, Jinx, this summer and it’s gorgeous in every way, so if the impending doom of winter is starting to sink in and you’ve been day-dreaming about taking a trip, this could be it! 

Crumb plays L’Astral, 305 Rue Sainte Catherine O, Saturday, November 2, 2019. Doors open at 7PM. Tickets available through evenko.

Saturday, November 2nd: M.M. CRONE

From the neon synth pop duo who brought you Fish for Breakfast, Montreal-based group, M.M. CRONE, will be making an appearance at L’Escogriffe this Saturday and word through the grapevine is they’ll be giving us a sneak peak at some new songs.

These two have clearly hacked the code to bridging the vibe gap of a shadowy, dreamy past and an electric neon future. If you have a taste for gritty 80s synth with cryptic lyrics, or are just looking for a guaranteed good time, do I have a show for you! 

M.M. CRONE play L’escogriffe, 4461 Saint Denis, Saturday, November 2, 2019. Doors open at 9pm. Tickets available for $7 at the door.

Sunday November 3rd: The Interrupters

They’re a match and you’re kerosene; together you’ll burn down everything. Los Angeles ska punk band, The Interrupters, is performing this Sunday evening at MTelus, and I heard the show’s going to be fire.

Join them at MTelus this Sunday for a night of energetic ska-punk you won’t be able to resist singing along to!

The Interrupters play MTelus, 59 Rue Sainte Catherine O, Sunday, November 3, 2019. Get your tickets through evenko.

Monday, November 4th: Rayannah

Winnipeg-based artist, Rayannah, will be performing in Montreal just before she heads overseas on her European tour to perform her newest album, Nos Repaires, that was released this past March. Rayannah is a recent winner of Producer of the Year and Francophone Artist of the Year at this year’s Western Canadian Music Awards, and her talent is evident not only through her hauntingly beautiful voice, but also in her intricate beat-making.

Catch her show at Le Verre Bouteille this coming Monday.

Rayannah will perform at Le Verre Bouteille, 2112 Mont-Royal Est, Monday, November 4, 2019 at 8PM. Get your tickets through pointofsale.

Are you or your band playing a show in Montreal? Let us know at music@forgetthebox.net. We’ll do our best to include you in an upcoming Shows This Week, but, of course, no promises.

If you walked into Noah Baumbach’s latest drama Marriage Story without knowing anything about the film, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was a love story. It opens with the leads Nicole (Scarlet Johansson) and Charlie (Adam Driver) talking about each other’s greatest qualities; she is a good mom, dancer, is attentive even to strangers. He is a good dad, eco-conscious, self-sufficient.

But then the rug is quickly pulled from under you. These lists were created after a marriage counsellor suggests they read them to each other.

Charlie passive-aggressively offers to read his first, Nicole doesn’t want to read hers at all. That’s when you realize this isn’t going to be a movie about a hip New York theatre couple. This is a movie about a frustrated separated couple that will soon become a divorced one, and the brutal road it takes to get there.

This is Baumbach’s second foray into directing a movie centred around divorce. The 2005 film The Squid and The Whale was inspired by his parents’ divorce and in that story, Jesse Eisenberg was clearly the Baumbach stand-in.

This time it’s Adam Driver’s turn, in a story based on his own 2013 divorce from Jennifer Jason Leigh. Because Baumbach is using moments from his own life to write and direct this story, it’s perhaps not surprising that Driver gets more of the focus in the film.

While I did want to see more of Nicole’s side of things, honestly focusing on Charlie didn’t ruin anything for me. I’ve loved Driver ever since he was the horny weirdo on Girls and in this film he delivers a career-best performance in a career that’s already filled with really great ones.

The scene about half-way through the film when Charlie and Nicole decide they need to have a sit-down in his temporary LA apartment he’s begrudgingly rented to spend more time with his son stands out especially. It’s a 10-minute one-act play in many ways.

It begins with the couple tensely but calmly expressing the desire to work out their issues, and increasingly escalates until people are punching the walls, sobbing uncontrollably, and wishing the other person was dead. It’s a master class in acting and guaranteed to get Johansson and Driver both Oscar nominations. In Driver’s case, I think he has a really good chance of winning.

Neither Charlie or Nicole is a blameless victim in this split. Yes, Charlie cheated, but Nicole has also taken their son across the country to LA and has no intentions of sending him back to New York.

Their lawyers (Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta) go from trading witty barbs to brutal punches as they try to paint their clients as the victims or heroes in this story. But we know that neither is really the case.

While this all sounds like a monumental bummer, I assure you the film isn’t all non-stop heart-wrenching drama. There are in fact plenty of humorous moments in between all the serious ones to give you some breathing space in between the more intense scenes like the one I mentioned above.

The product of all this is without the best film I saw at the Festival du Nouveau Cinema, and so far my pic to win all the awards this season.

Marriage Story will have a limited run in theatres before streaming on Netflix December 6th

More shows in Montreal this week! Check ’em out!

Sunday, October 27th: Selci

Calgarian electro-pop act, Selci, will be performing at Case del Popolo this Sunday, October 27th, following the new release of her debut EP, Effervescence, this past August.

Though her background is in opera, contemporary, and classical styles of music, Selci seamlessly transitions her practiced understanding of sound to pop through layers of ambient beats and jazz-inspired electronica. The coalescence of sounds and genres proves for a truly ethereal experience, so don’t miss your chance to catch the show! 

Selci plays Casa del Popolo, 4873 St. Laurent Blvd., Sunday, October 27, 2019 from 8pm to 11pm. Get your tickets through eventbrite!

Sunday, October 27th: JS Ondara

As part of the Montreal International Jazz Festival, folk musician J.S. Ondara, will be performing this Sunday, October 27th at L’astral. Originally born in Nairobi, Kenya (shout out to the +254!), J.S. Ondara discovered Bob Dylan at a young age and has been making his own music ever since.

Though he’s a newcomer to the American folk scene, Ondara demonstrates a deep understanding of what it feels like to have a complex sense of ‘home’. 

J.S. Ondara plays L’Astral, 305 rue Sainte Catherine Ouest, Sunday, October 27, 2019 at 8pm. Purchase tickets here.

Tuesday October 29th: King Princess

American singer/songwriter, born pop-star, and universal girlcrush, King Princess, is back in Montreal this week following the release of her debut album, Cheap Queen, (though she’s already no stranger to stardom). Her music is classically good, queerly cathartic, and also happen to be entirely perfect for singing your heart out.

Don’t miss your chance to have your heartstrings played on all night by the love of my life. You can catch her show at MTelus, this Tuesday. 

King Princess plays MTelus, 59 St Catherine Est, Tuesday, October 29, 2019. Show at 8pm, doors at 6:30pm. Get your tickets through evenko.

October 31st: Orjan Nilsen

There’s always a lot to do during Halloween, but if you’re to dance the night away to a sound born at the crux of spine-chilling and exhilarating don’t miss Norweigan producer and DJ Orjan Nilsen, who will be performing at Newspeak this Thursday, the 31st for a special Halloween show. Known for his lively performances and high energy sets, Orjan has amassed a dedicated fan base around the globe.

Orjan Nilsen plays Newspeak, 1403 Rue Sainte Elisabeth, Sunday, October 27, 2019. Show starts at 10pm. Get your tickets here.

Are you or your band playing a show in Montreal? Let us know at music@forgetthebox.net. We’ll do our best to include you in an upcoming Shows This Week, but, of course, no promises.

“So that was basically Inglorious Kingdom, right?” I overheard someone tell their friend as I left Cinema Imperial after last Sunday night’s screening of Taika Waititi’s (What we do in the Shadows, Thor: Ragnarock) latest project, the Nazi-buddy comedy Jojo Rabbit.

As I’ve thought about the film the past few days, I feel it’s the perfect way to explain this movie to people: It balances broad comedy and the (historically inaccurate) horrors of war like Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds while also being a sweet coming of age story filled with fairy tale colours and hipstery music choices like Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.

The film tells the story of Johannes (newcomer Roman Griffin Davis) a 10-year-old boy living in World War Two era Germany. So much is Johannes indoctrinated in the Nazi propaganda machine that whenever he needs a good pep talk to get himself psyched up, he imagines the Fuhrer himself (played by Waititi, who is a triple threat here as writer/director/actor) coming to give him some words of encouragement.

While it’s a little suspicious that Johannes would envision his hero to be this silly and effeminate, as a viewer you get it. If there’s anyone out there who deserves to be mocked and derided, it’s Adolph Hitler.

As we follow Johannes to Nazi youth camp, (where his instructors include Sam Rockwell, Alfie Allen, and Rebel Wilson, who all deserve recognition for doing their best with very cartoonish, undeveloped characters) we see that as much as he protests that he’s “really into swastikas” he can’t murder a rabbit when asked. It’s very clear that Johannes, or “Jojo Rabbit” as he’s now called by his fellow Nazi youth campers, is never going to be the ruthless fascist he aspires to.

Johannes’ blind devotion to the cause gets even more muddled when he returns home and realizes that his eccentric mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) has been hiding Jewish girl Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie, who gives another amazing performance after last year’s Leave no Trace) in the walls of his dead sister’s bedroom. Talking with Elsa whenever Rosie is out of the house, Johannes comes to realize that all the stuff he’s heard about Jews is wrong. And maybe instead of being revered, Hitler should just fuck off?

Jojo Rabbit has received mixed reviews since premiering this fall at the Toronto International Film Festival. Some people have said the film is not funny (which I vehemently disagree with, I thought it was hilarious) and that trying to make a coming-of-age story set in Nazi Germany is problematic.

I do agree with that to some extent. The film definitely shows the horrors of war when it wants to, and then either avoids or over sentimentalizes other moments when it wants to focus on the comedy/coming-of-age bits.

But that still doesn’t dissuade me from recommending this film to people. In fact in many ways, I’d say it’s the Hitler buddy comedy you never knew you needed.

Jojo Rabbit has already played at the Festival du Nouveau Cinema. But it’ll have a wide release in Montreal theatres this fall

Ever since I saw Pedro Almodovar’s All About My Mother I’ve been a huge fan of the Spanish auteur. I’ve always been impressed by how this filmmaker can make films that are outwardly so outlandish in scope; with their eccentric characters, brightly hued colour palettes, and melodramatic storylines… feel so intimate and authentic.

A lot of has to do I think with the autobiographical elements the filmmaker sprinkles into his stories. With his latest film, Pain and Glory, Almodovar creates one of his most personal stories yet.

It follows a charming but depressed ageing director Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas in a career-best performance). Salvador is not-so-subtly inspired by Almodovar himself. His house is apparently an exact replica of Almodovar’s, and Banderas even wears some of the director’s own clothes.

One of the reasons Banderas’s performance is so great here is while he gives a brilliant homage to one of his most frequent collaborators (the pair have made eight movies together since the 1980s) he still manages to make Salvador feel like his own man. Never once when you’re watching the film do you feel like “This is Banderas playing Almodovar.”

Salvador hasn’t made a film in years and he’s consumed with a litany of physical ailments that may or may not be psychosomatic in nature. Just when he’s wondering what the hell to do with himself, he gets a call from the local cinematheque; they want to screen one of his films from thirty years ago and would like him to come speak to the audience afterwards.

This call inspires Salvador to track down the star of the film Alberto (Asier Etxeandia) with whom he famously had a falling out years before. Seeing Alberto again is both a disaster (he convinces Salvador to try heroin for the first time) and a good thing; it allows Salvador to reflect on other key moments from his past.

He ends up reconciling with an old lover. We see glimpses of his relationship with his mother (Penelope Cruz and then portrayed in later years by Julietta Serrano) and his first crush on a local handyman Eduardo (Cesar Vincent) that sparked his realization that he was queer.

Dealing with these ghosts of his past seems to spark hope in the director. He may not be the bad boy of Spanish cinema anymore, but he’s ready to create more personal, contemplative stories.

Again it’s hard not to see the parallels between Salvador and Almodovar himself here; because this film is without a doubt his most personal and contemplative yet. Critics have been comparing this film to Fellini’s 8 1/2 and it’s an apt comparison.

Let’s just hope instead of a filmmaker at the end of his career looking back, that this is just the beginning of many more Almodovar films to come.

Pain and Glory plays on October 17th at The Festival du Nouveau Cinema and opens in regular theatres October 18th

Dirty God, Dutch filmmaker Sacha Polak’s English-language debut, tells the story of Jade (Vicky Knight) an acid attack survivor who’s trying to rebuild her life. Fresh out of the hospital, Jade has plenty to contend with; nightmares of her ex-partner and father of her child who perpetrated the attack, her young daughter calling her a ‘monster’, her hard-partying circle of friends not quite knowing how to handle her.

After interactions with her family and friends don’t prove helpful, Jade turns to the internet for relief. First through obsessively researching plastic surgery options, secondly by connecting with strangers for video sex chats. Unfortunately, both of those avenues lead to disaster as well.

In the hands of a lesser director, Dirty God could easily have become either a dreary drama about a woman who can’t catch a break, or a sentimental puff piece about someone finding the beauty within. Thankfully the film walks masterfully in between those two extremes; it’s able to find moments of happiness for the feisty and resilient Jade without losing its grasp on reality. Jade has had a hard life and it’s likely only going to get harder, but she’s a woman strong enough to face these adversities and keep going.

There are some strong supporting roles in this film, such as Katherine Kelly as Jade’s shoplifting mom Lisa, and Bluey Robinson as Naz, Jade’s best friend’s boyfriend who just may have feelings for her as well. But what really makes this film worth seeing is the performance of Vicky Knight in the lead.

It was important to director Polak that Jade be portrayed by a real burn survivor. As a child, Knight’s body was burned badly in a fire. Imagining Knight would understand what Jade is going through isn’t much of a stretch. The fact that she easily carries this whole film on her performance alone, especially when it’s the first time she’s ever acted, is something even more impressive.

Dirty God plays at The Festival du Nouveau Cinema on October 18 and 20th

What is it about dysfunctional father/daughter relationships that female directors find so appealing? Whatever the attraction is to tell these kinds of stories, I’m glad they’re being made; it’s led to some truly great cinema. After last year’s Leave no Trace, the actress turned filmmaker Annabelle Attanasio gives us her impressive debut feature Mickey and the Bear.

Set in rural Montana, the film tells the story of teenage Mickey (Camila Morrone) and her Iraq-war veteran father Hank (James Badge Dale). While there are brief glimpses of Hank’s charm, he’s mostly a violent and pathetic addict who doesn’t know how to function in the world anymore. With her mother dead for an undetermined amount of time, Mickey has taken up the mantle of running the household.

Mickey celebrates her eighteenth birthday early in the film and with adulthood, she finds herself at a critical crossroads. Does she stay in Montana and keep taking care of her father, who clearly won’t survive without her, or pursue her dreams of a life out west?

While it’s clear she loves her father, it’s impossible to deny their relationship has become increasingly toxic. Things get especially disturbing when Hank gets a little too handsy and keeps calling Mickey by her mother’s name during his binges.

Morrone and Dale both give impressive performances as the conflicted father and daughter, but it’s Dale who really shines. Hank likely was a good person at some point but has let his rage and disappointment in the world consume him. Dale manages to show all of that with a simple glance or line delivery.

It’s the first film I’ve ever seen with Morrone but after her nuanced performance as a teen desperate to discover her purpose, I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next.

That goes double for writer/director Annabelle Attanasio. Although I’ve seen this type of film before, both as a writer and filmmaker she manages to make it feel fresh through the intimate story, interesting music choices, and most of all, allowing her performers to shine.

Mickey and the Bear plays at The Festival du Nouveau Cinema October 15th, 16th and 19th

Another week, more great shows to see! Scroll down to see what’s on the menu for music in Montreal this week.

Thursday, October 10th: MEUTE

Does the phrase “techno marching band” intrigue you at all? I can’t really imagine how the answer could be no, but if your answer was yes go see MEUTE at the SAT this Thursday!

The band consists of eleven drummers and horn players from Hamburg, Germany who perform the role of a DJ but with their instruments. The result? A seamless blend of electronic music with live acoustic instruments.

Don’t miss this truly unique performance! 

MEUTE will perform at the Société des Arts Technologiques, 1201 blvd Saint-Laurent, on October 10th, 2019 at 8PM. Tickets available through Electrostub.

Saturday, October 12th: Kero Kero Bonito

London indie pop band Kero Kero Bonito (KKB) will be performing this Saturday in Montreal. While there are a lot of indie pop bands out there, KKB is truly one that operates to the beat of their own drum, if the drum was accompanied by something along the lines of quirky British bubblegum pop.

For me, their music always seems to stir up something of a childlike wonder through its various layers of game-like sound effects and practically ‘lullaby-pop’ sound. Catch their show at the Fairmount this weekend. 

Kero Kero Bonito play Fairmount Theatre, 5240 Avenue du Parc, this Saturday, October 12th, 2019 at 9PM. Get your tickets through evenko.

Sunday, October 13th: Kompromat

Vitalic and Rebeka Warrior (of Sexy Sushi, and Mansfield.TYA) have come together to form Kompromat and will be performing their first show in North America in Montreal on Sunday, October 12th as part of the 48th edition of the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma.

Their music is reminiscent of old-school Berlin techno but with a distinctive punk tone, with Warrior commanding the role of the voice, and Vitalic the machine. The product of their unique dynamic is a riveting electronic experience  you won’t want to miss.

To top it all off there will also be a free screening of Blood Machines following the performance as part of the FNC experience. 

Kompromat will perform at Agora du Coeur des Sciences, 3805 blvd Saint-Laurent, for the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma on October 13th, 2019 at 8:30PM. Tickets available through ticketpro.

Tuesday, October 15th: Charli XCX

If you’ve managed to get this far in your life without ever encountering 27 year old Myspace pop sensation Charli XCX, then I think it’s safe to say you probably just haven’t been paying enough attention, because her influence is everywhere.

Charli’s music confidently straddles the line of mainstream and experimental pop, drawing us in with her happy futuristic club-kid exterior and keeping us there with her refreshingly perceptive navigation of both the genre of pop and her role as an artist within it.

Catch her performance this Tuesday, October 15th at the Corona Theatre. 

Charli XCX plays Corona Theatre, 2490 Notre Dame St. W, Tuesday, October 15 at 8pm. Tickets available through evenko.

Are you or your band playing a show in Montreal? Let us know at music@forgetthebox.net. We’ll do our best to include you in an upcoming Shows This Week, but, of course, no promises.