This week, we may not have the nice temperatures we enjoyed last weekend, but we do have a virtual transdisciplinary exhibition, a live virtual concert and a movie about the making of the 2009 POP Montreal music festival.
Let’s get started:
Van Grimde Corps Secrets’ Virtual Exhibition Embodiment 2
Dance company Van Grimde Corps Secrets has been all about collaborating with other artists from different milieus since the early 2000s. Their latest project, a virtual exhibition called Embodiment 2, is no different.
In 2015, the group founded by Isabelle Van Grimde began sharing its research into the EVE 2050 triptych with other artists to foster collaboration and discussion. The result was the EVE 2050 web series.
Now, they have combined that series with Brad Necyk and Gary James Joynes’ film The Birth of the World to create this virtual exhibition.
Ctrllab is an art gallery and performance space, though during the pandemic, the venue on St-Laurent has been functioning mainly as a media production company. This Saturday, they welcome back one of their favourite in-person guests for a virtual performance.
Electro Minimal Tech artist Sean Kosa has been part of the music scene since he was 14 in Toronto. Over the years, he moved to Montreal, then to Asia and now back home to our city where he has performed in various venues all across town.
In 2009, Andi Slate had just completed a feature film and decided to go back to basics. The filmmaker shot over 55 hours worth of footage of her POP Montreal colleagues putting on the festival as well as shows during said fest.
11 years and at least two projects later, Slate returned to that footage and put together The POP Movie, which first screened at the 2020 Edition of POP Montreal. Now, it’s available for all to stream!
Okay, sure, it snowed on Thursday. Maybe that was Mother Nature’s way of playing an April Fools joke on us.
In general, though, things are getting much nicer outside, but for the time being, most of us are stuck indoors after 9:30pm. Fortunately, there are tons of local arts and music you can enjoy from home.
This week. we’ve got a festival, a movie and a virtual concert from a local venue. Let’s get started:
Shigawake Festival Presents Full Concerts Throughout April
The Shigawake Music Festival has been celebrating Quebec-based musicians since its inception in 2009. There wasn’t an in-person event in 2020 for obvious reasons, but organizers decided to hold its 12th edition anyways, albeit a bit differently.
They filmed The Barr Brothers, Martha Wainwright, SoCalled and a slew of other acts performing in the festival’s namesake town of Shigawake (in the Gaspe Region, population 338) last summer, with a plan to let the general public virtually attend this spring. In March, they streamed the event as three full days of festival performance highlights and now, in April, will be presenting full concerts throughout the month.
It kicks off tonight (April 3rd) at 8pm with Martin Henry.
Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt’s No Ordinary Man
Billy Tipton was a transmasculine jazz musician whose career ran from the mid 1930s to the late 1970s. He was long portrayed as an ambitious woman posing as a man to have a better music career, but now Montreal director Aisling Chin-Yee along with Chase Joynt hope to give some justice to Billy’s legacy and question the representation and treatment of transgender individuals in media and society.
Along with with his son, Billy Tipton, Jr. and several members of the trans community, the filmmakers have put together a documentary called No Ordinary Man to celebrate Billy’s life and career. It was released this week, to coincide with the Transgender Day of Visibility (which was March 31st).
Here’s the trailer:
No Ordinary Man opened in select theatres on April 2nd, 2021 and is available to rent and view online
Urban Science Brass Band Close Out Les dimanches couvre-fun
For the past few weeks, Indie Montreal has been offering us a weekly dose of virtual local shows, complete with streaming from a local venue. Tomorrow is final edition of Les dimanches couvre-fun (for now), and they’re going out in a big way, a big band way, with the Urban Science Brass Band performing at Café Campus.
Of course, this group, that sometimes comprises as many as 40 performers (musicians and dancers), is best known for reinventing hip hop classics and performing on the street, flashmob-style, to the huge crowds out during Montreal’s festival season. This year, our fingers are still crossed for a festival season, or at least part of one and the crowds at night aren’t there because, for the moment, they can’t be.
At least we get to bring some of that spirit back this Sunday with the the Urban Science Brass Band. Here’s them doing some of what they do best:
Urban Science Brass Band perform virtually at Café Campus as part of Les dimanches couvre-fun on Sunday, April 4, 8pm. Tickets available through ThePointOfSale.com
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The weather outside is spring-like, but we’re still under a curfew. Fret not as there is plenty of great arts and music to enjoy from home.
This week, it’s all music, though one entry is a film. Let’s get started:
Eve Egoyan in Duet for Solo Piano
When you see the name Egoyan and the word film appear in the same sentence (as they did in this post’s title), it’s only logical to assume that celebrated stage and screen director Atom Egoyan has a new flick. In this case, though, you’d be wrong, we’re talking about his sister Eve.
Eve Egoyan isn’t a filmmaker, rather she is recognized as one of the 25 greatest Canadian classical pianists of all time. And she is the subject of the documentary Duet for Solo Piano directed by Su Rynard currently playing (online, of course) as part of the 39th edition of the International Festival of Films on Art.
The film delves into the events that have shaped Eve and left a mark on who she is today. It sets out to offer “rare insight into the creative process and the complexity of developing new work that pushes the boundaries of art, instrument and self.”
Here is the trailer:
Duet for Solo Piano is available across Canada for online viewing until Sunday, March 28 as part of the 39th Edition of the International Festival of Films on Art. Get your tickets through LeFIFA.com
Titelaine Perform at Le Ministère Virtually
Indie Montreal’s Sunday virtual concert series from real venues, Les dimanches couvre-fun, continues. So far the likes of Elephant Stone, Millimetrik and The Liquor Store have performed at different venues around town and now, this week, Titelaine will perform at Le Ministère.
This Montreal duo offers nostalgic downtempo songs that you can dance to. Their scenography was specifically designed for this show and this venue.
While you wait, here is some of their music:
Titelaine perform at Le Ministère as part of Les dimanches couvre-fun, Sunday, March 28th, 8pm. Tickets available through LePointDeVente.com
Gayance Launches Fruta Gogoia
Montreal/Hatian DJ Gayance has spent the past few years opening for acts like Princess Nokia and Kaytranada, playing events such as POP Montreal and Osheaga and directing documentaries on the Piu Piu movement and the Montreal beat scene. She also had a winter arts residency in Salvador, Bahia (Brazil) for the past seven years.
She will be releasing her first EP Not Toning Down For Sh*T in the fall and the first track is a Bahia folk song called Fruta Gogoia. For Gayance, “it’s a mantra that calls women, especially Black women & queers, to take all the space they need to take without compromise.”
Fruta Gogoia will be available March 26th. You can pre-save or pre-add the track or check back tomorrow when we’ll update this post with it. In the meantime, enjoy some of Gayance’s DJ work:
How’s your March Break going? Still inside at night (by law) and trying to get out in the day? Working an essential job? Looking for some music and arts to get you through the early March snow and cold?
This week, we’ve got an album launch, a film screening and live virtual shows that should feel more like actual shows.
Let’s get started:
Les dimanches couvre-fun Kicks Off with Millimetrik
Indie Montreal is waiting to get back to doing what it is known for: promoting local shows in venues. While that is not currently possible, they have come up with the next-best thing to do as we wait for things to get back to somewhat normal: promoting local shows in venues – virtually.
They have launched Les dimanches couvre-fun (for those who don’t speak it, couvre-feu is curfew in French), a weekly series of virtual concerts streamed from venues around the city. We’re scheduled to see performances from Cabaret Lion d’Or, Ausgang Plaza, Le Ministère and Café Campus/Petit Campus over the next few weeks.
The series kicks off this Sunday at 8pm with Millimetrik performing at Piedestal’s virtual amphitheatre. Future shows will feature The Liquor Store, Elephant Stone, Titelaine and the Urban Science Brass Band.
In the meantime, please enjoy the dreamlike groove of this Sunday’s headliner and prodigal son of Quebec City Pascal Asselin, aka Millimetrik:
Okay sure, Institut isn’t a Montreal band, they’re from France. But we are including acts that have a connection to here and this one sure has its Quebec roots.
They have worked with director and cinematographer Michel La Veaux on the score for the feature film Labrecque, une caméra pour la mémoire while Denis Côté produced the music video for ici aussi off their second album.
Now, they are releasing a new album, L’effet waouh des zones côtières, which offers “a clever mix of afrobeat and new wave to which ingenious mixes are added each time. The songs themselves cover today’s realities candidly and with ample irony – reinvented romances, pleasures at a distance and home delivery.”
L’effet waouh des zones côtières launches today (March 5th) and will be available through institut-bonjour.com For now, enjoy the video for ici aussi:
Vision Nocturna (Night Shot) @ Cinema Politica
Cinema Politica is known for screening politically-charged films at places like Concordia’s Hall Building (but also at other locations around the country and the world) followed by discussion with the people behind the films and their subjects.
During the pandemic, they have opted to do the same, only virtually. This month’s offering is Vision Nocturna (Night Shot) from Carolina Moscoso.
It’s an “experimental film composed out of fragments shot over years as the Chilean director reckons with the trauma of her rape. Artistic cinematography and sound composition create a visceral experience as the emotional artifacts of Moscoso’s story collide with the systemic burden of a justice system that has ultimately failed to prosecute the perpetrator.”
On Sunday, journalist and author Dawn Marie Paley will moderate a discussion with Moscoso joined by Mexico City-based artists Amanda Ruiz and Cerrucha.
Jason C. McLean speaks with comedian Preach, the host of this year’s Gala Dynastie, a celebration of Black excellence from across Quebec. They talk about comedy during COVID, this Saturday’s online edition and this year’s theme: The Rise of the Engaged.
The 5th Edition of Gala Dynastie streams live this Satruday, March 6th, at 6pm. For tickets and for more info: GalaDynastie.com
This week we’ve got a film and arts festival dedicated to LGBTQ+ works that highlight members of Black communities, a music video premier from a local alternative folk rock group and a Valentine’s market from the people behind POP Montreal.
Let’s get started:
The Massimadi Afro LGBTQ+ Film and Arts Festival
We’re in the middle of Black History Month and the Massimadi Afro LGBTQ+ Film and Arts Festival is set to return for its 13th edition. This year, the theme is, appropriately, Resistance.
With all that is going on south of the border and around the world, resisting is key. The festival also plans to resist any negative effects COVID might have on their ability to reach audiences by making the entire event free and online.
With seven feature films 23 short films and representation from nine countries, the conversation is sure to continue. There will also be found tables, a comedy show and even speed dating.
The 13th Edition of the Massimadi Afro LGBTQ+ Film and Arts Festival runs February 12 – March 12. For the complete schedule and more info, please visit massimadi.ca
Aquarius Dreams Release Music Video for Flora’s Earthtones
Montreal-based alternative folk rock group Aquarius Dreams released their lastest EP Flora’s Earthtones way back in pre-COVID 2019. While they are planning to go on a “reformative hiatus” and then re-emerge when the pandemic is done, they are first releasing a video for the EP’s titular track this weekend.
Directed by Callum Sheedy, the video “alludes to the degradation of the relationship between humanity and nature, the dance between moral volition and action.” Part of it is also clearly shot on Mount Royal, which always leads to some spectacular visuals.
Puces POP is Back Online for Valentine’s Day
The annual POP Montreal music festival is all set for an in-person edition this fall, but while the curfew and other COVID restrictions are still in effect, their popular Puces POP market has reinvented itself, just in time for Valentine’s Day. They have an online catalogue available until March 1st.
You can buy products from over 70 local artisans. We’re talking body products, clothing, jewelry and much more.
While our Shows This Week column, both for music and arts, is clearly on hiatus until we can, you know, go to shows again, we thought we’d highlight some of the Montreal and Montreal-friendly music, art, theatre, comedy, film etc. that you can partake in.
Let’s get started…
The image + nation Launches Canada’s First-Ever Queer Short Film Festival
image + nation, Canada’s first LGBTQ+ film festival just concluded its 33rd edition, albeit in a totally online form. While you can still see the films that won awards at the festival until December 12th, image+nation has something else to offer.
From December 9th until the 31st they are running the first-ever pan-Canadian Queer Short Film Festival. This new event is focusing on a few key areas including growing up and growing older as an LGBTQ person, films from countries and perspectives that see little representation in the queer cinema canon and outreach to Francophone communities outside of Quebec.
Montrealer Emmanuel Lauzon, aka electronic music producer Wooden Drone released his debut album this past November 14th. Titled Never Ending Loops, it is a 14-tracks of electronic ambient music meticulously produced over a decade.
That’s right, this is the product of ten years’ worth of work. During that time, Lauzon was also developing the video game We Happy Few as a senior 3D artist. Both projects were released simultaneously.
Wooden Drone will be releasing a single in the new year, but for now (in addition to the full album) we have this teaser video:
Igloofest Will Return and Has An Online Shop for a Good Cause
Igloofest, the annual outdoor-in-winter music fest has the distinction of being literally the coolest festival in Montreal, but also, due to its timing, one of the few big annual events that actually got to hold an in-person 2020 edition.
This year, with a COVID vaccine’s potential widespread distribution still months away, there won’t be an in-person Igloofest this winter. Organizers are working on a digital version in its place and promise surprises and video capsules starting in January and leading up to the 15th edition scheduled for 2022.
Right now, though, you can buy festival merch. Their online shop, the Iglooboutique, launched this past Thursday, offers items like the classic toque sold at the event each year, hockey jerseys and socks.
If you buy a pair of socks, another pair will be donated to people suffering from homelessness. This is due to Igloofest‘s partnership with Montreal-based Robin des Bas.
For the past decade and a half, the Montreal International Black Film Festival (MIBFF) has had a mission to foster diversity by showcasing Black stories from around the world. This year, in spite of everything that’s happening, and also because of it, MIBFF’s mission will continue.
Given the current reality of the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the fact that COVID is still raging around the world and disproportionately impacting communities of colour, a festival that gives a platform to Black artists that would otherwise be invisible more than makes sense — it’s essential.
Understandably, the format will be different this year. MIBFF’s 16th Annual Edition will be almost exclusively online.
Most film festivals operating for the first time without the in-person cinema experience have been forced to geo-block their content to a particular region or country. MBIFF’s lineup, though, will be available to stream all around the world.
Speaking of that lineup, this is Canada’s largest Black film festival and this year features 120 films. An All-Access Pass costs $49 and gives you access to all of them throughout the festival’s run.
Here are some of the highlights:
The Cuban: A film by Sergio Navarretta about a young woman who meets and unexpectedly becomes friends with an elderly Cuban musician while working her first job at a nursing home.
Black Market: This is a series of free panels focused on the industry side of cinema. Topics include: Racebending in Film and Television, Black Stories Matter, and Black Women Behind the Lens.
MBIFF in the Neighborhoods: When we said the festival will be almost exclusively online, this is the exception. It will take place at the Maison Culturelle et Communautaire de Montréal-Nord, and feature screenings of Mahalia Melts in the Rain and Briser le Code, followed by discussion.
Black Boys: A documentary from Executive Producer, activist and two-time Super Bowl champion Malcolm Jenkins and writer/director Sonia Lowman celebrating the full humanity of Black men and boys in America and revealing the emotional landscape of racism in order to ask the viewer to re-imagine a different world.
Canadian Films: This year MIBFF is putting a spotlight on Canadian filmmakers.
The 16th Annual Montreal International Black Film Festival runs from September 23 to October 4. You can watch all 120 films whenever you want during the run of the festival by purchasing an All-Access Pass for $49 through MontrealBlackFilm.com where you can also see the full lineup.
In spite of indoor public gatherings of up to 250 people being allowed, Montreal’s annual Fantasia Film Festival has opted to go online this year due to COVID-19. The event is described as a “cutting-edge virtual festival, taking place August 20 to September 2, 2020.” Among the festival’s offerings this year is the film Anything for Jackson, a horror film whose subject matter is reminiscent of the 1970s films of the same genre. I had the privilege of speaking with star Konstantina Mantelos about her role, and the effect the pandemic has had on the film industry.
Anything for Jackson is about Mantelos’ character, Shannon Becker, who at eight months pregnant is kidnapped by a pair of elderly Satanists, played by Canadian actors Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings. The two Satanists are hoping to bring back their dead grandson via a Satanic ritual involving Becker’s unborn child. When I pointed out the similarities of the plot to 1970s horror films, Mantelos enthusiastically agreed.
“When the director and writer first met with me they referenced Rosemary’s Baby meets Hereditary. They really pulled on a lot of older, classic horror film ideas and they modernized it. They’ve taken a new twist on horror films that are happening right now and used these themes as metaphors for real life things that we face. It sounds like a zany concept, but there’s a lot of love in the story, there’s a lot of themes of motherhood and caring for those you love, and that’s really what’s at the centre of the story.”
I wondered if given this ongoing trend in horror, Mantelos felt the film’s subject matter was especially relevant given the current apocalyptic times, or whether Anything for Jackson was just a bit of fun. Mantelos laughed and said it was a bit of both.
“I think there’s an interesting factor in the story, an older couple trying to bring back their grandson with no regard for the fact that they are doing this to a young woman who has her future ahead of her and who has this child that she would love and be her own. There’s a sort of selfishness there, as well-meaning as these two are, as you’ll see in the film that they are quite endearing, at the end of the day there is a sort of slightly larger metaphor of older generation: what’s happened to the planet, what we as a younger generation are facing now. There’s a little bit of that. We discussed it when we were working on the film that we think is not a prominent theme in the film, but what I think can be gleaned from it.”
When I asked which of the countless horror sub-genres Anything for Jackson fell into, Mantelos said that despite the subject matter seeming quite campy, the movie sits more within the realm of reality.
“The stuff that we’re facing is quite out of this world, but the way it’s dealt with is in a quite down to earth, dark manner.”
Given the intensity of the part she plays in the movie, I was curious as to the challenges she faced working on the film. Mantelos laughed at this question, discussing the challenge of playing someone who is eight months pregnant when she herself has never been pregnant.
She did some research and reached out to friends who have been pregnant. Mantelos speaks affectionately about how helpful her co-star Sheila McCarthy was when speaking about her own pregnancy experience, and about the extreme emotional and physical changes involved. She described the heavy jelly-filled pregnancy vest she had to wear throughout most of the filming day, and the challenge of being chained to a bed for much of the film.
Given all the talk in the media about the decline in the arts due to the pandemic, I wanted to know how it had affected Mantelos’ work. She pointed out the obvious decline in auditions she was getting, as well as many productions shutting down.
“Funny story, we shot this film — it was a three-week shooting schedule. We literally wrapped on the day that all production got shut down. I essentially went from this very hectic, busy shooting schedule to coming back home to Toronto and essentially being stuck in my house!”
Though auditions have shut down, Mantelos has found a way to make the best of things. She has used the isolation to be productive on personal projects, including screenwriting and producing, which she’d never had time to sit down and give the attention they needed. She mentions that being stuck at home allowed her to complete the first draft of a script she was working on.
When I asked her what else she was getting up to during the pandemic, Mantelos mentioned doing a movie marathon, where she watched a film every day and posted about it on Instagram. Though she no longer watches one every day, she’s already reached 160 movies, mostly fiction. In addition to the movie marathon, she has also been baking, recently making a strawberry and cream bread from The Hobbit Cookbook.
Given how much adapting the arts have had to do since the pandemic started, I asked Mantelos if she thought the changes would be permanent. In response, she mentioned that Anything for Jackson is set to come out on Super Channel Fuse in October, which was planned in advance.
“They’re doing a really wonderful job, and part of it is nice because things like Fantasia are things I always wanted to participate in or have participated in and attended, but a lot of people don’t know that there are things that the public can buy tickets to and the average Joe can get tickets to a big movie premier, and it’s really amazing that it’s accessible. In that way it’s nice because now people are going to be able to access the premier all across Canada, and that’s something wouldn’t have happened if we were doing a traditional red carpet premier in the theatre.”
Anything for Jackson premieres tomorrow, September 1, 2020, as part of the 2020 Fantasia International Film Festival. Info and tickets available through FantasiaFestival.com
With pretty much every major Montreal summer festival either cancelling for 2020 or rescheduling until the fall due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we can happily report that the Fantasia International Film Festival will take place this summer with only slightly different dates (August 20 – September 2). The only other difference is the festival will take place entirely online.
No, this doesn’t mean that the internationally famous destination genre event will be making this year’s films available for on-demand streaming. Instead, they’ll be replicating the in-person cinema experience as much as possible through Festival Scope and Shift72’s virtual screening platform.
If you buy tickets to a movie premier that starts at 8pm but log on at 8:15pm, you’ll miss any trailers or intro material offered as well as the beginning of the film. They’ll also be limiting tickets to a number comparable to the capacity of the venue that would have, under normal circumstances, played host. The event will also be geo-restricted to Canada.
The security of the platform will allow Fantasia to still offer global premiers. This approach will also mean they can avoid having to compete with other major film festivals that usually run in the fall.
They will also offer as many Q&As with special guests as possible. It won’t be completely the same experience as in years past, but it will be as close as possible to it given the current public health restrictions.
Fantasia runs August 20 – September 2, 2020 and is still accepting submissions, so we don’t have a lineup yet, but we will announce it when we do. For more: fantasiafestival.com
This is the time of year where thoughts start to turn to summer and, in particular, all the shows the season usually brings to Montreal. At Forget the Box, this is when we start thinking about just how we’re going to cover all the festivals (music, theatre, comedy, etc) and what sort of ticket giveaways we may run.
This year, as everyone knows, will be quite different due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Even if some of the restrictions currently in place are loosened and things get back to some semblance of normal, the summer’s events won’t be coming back until next year, or in some cases this fall.
So there are no shows to cover, but that doesn’t mean we can’t run a contest to give away tickets. You’ll just have to wait a while to pick up your prize.
With everything upside down, what time better than the present to start thinking of the future. If we beat this thing with our social distancing, we’ll have reason to celebrate.
So without any further ado, here’s FTB’s Lockdown Contest:
The Grand Prize is two tickets to the show of your choice with some restrictions. Given the huge financial hit the event industry is bound to take this year and the fact that they’re probably all too busy right now to coordinate a contest with us for the future, these won’t be promo passes.
Instead, we’ll be buying a pair of tickets like everyone else and then giving them to the winner free of charge. As such:
It can be any concert, play, comedy show, festival, etc, but it must happen in the Greater Montreal Region (if you can get there by bus and metro, it’s in the zone) before the end of 2022.
Tickets to the concert or show must be available for purchase to the general public. So if a show’s sold out for the public, it’s sold out for this contest, too.
We don’t guarantee your first pick, or preferred seating, but we’ll do our best.
Price of a single ticket can be no more than $200. Depending on what you pick, you might get access to an entire indie festival, a day’s worth of top-notch concerts or just one really great show.
You must be legally allowed to enter the venue where the show is taking place.
How to Enter the Contest
Normally with giveaways, we try to keep things simple. This time we’re asking a little more. Here are the details:
Send us your best Montreal on Lockdown Story by email to email@example.com with Lockdown Contest in the subject line before May 22nd 2020 at midnight.
We’re looking for uniquely Montreal stories – funny anecdotes, personal tales of how you’re dealing with our new reality, interesting accounts of how people are respecting social distancing in their own way, heartwarming tales of community solidarity, whatever you think might inspire, interest or amuse. They could be written, told through photos, or a combination of the two.
Share this post either on Facebook or Twitter and tag @forgetthebox also before May 22nd 2020 at midnight.
We reserve the right to publish the stories we receive and will definitely publish the winner (so please let us know how you would like to be credited – just one name, a name and an initial, your full name, a fake name, etc. – if not we’ll just use your name.
We know that these times are trying and that not everyone is in the right headspace to be positive right now. This contest isn’t designed to preach positivity, but rather to try and give everyone something to look forward to.
The shows will return. This summer will look and feel very different in Montreal, but if we all do our part, we’ll all be partying together at some point – and you can be the one who got in with free tickets!
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.
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.
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.