If only all dramas were as compelling as A Separation. The latest film by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi won Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscars, but it should have been nominated for Best Picture.
It’s not everyday that a pop-culture phenomenon occurs, but in the past decade we’ve witnessed three of them. First came Harry Potter, largely lauded as reigniting the children’s fiction industry and becoming the biggest pop-culture sensation since Star Wars appeared on the big screen in 1977. Next came Twilight, the definitive romance of this generation that demonstrated the slavish devotion and monetary power of the fangirl. And now we have Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, which has recently reached Twilight and Harry Potter levels of fandom.
Sometimes directors and actors work at cross purposes, causing a film to be disjointed and aimless, regardless of a clever scene here or a good performance there. Unfortunately, such cross purposes plague We Need to Talk About Kevin and are likely responsible for much of its failure as a film. We Need to Talk About Kevin is a celebrated psychological horror drama that follows Eva Khatachadourian, a reluctant mother, as she deals with her demon-seed son Kevin and the aftermath of his horrific actions at school.
A kind of MTV-generation thinking pervades MacHomer. It’s thinking that says to make classic art (like the plays of Shakespeare) relatable to modern audiences, you should throw in some pop-culture references and, voila, you have an easily digestible version ready for the masses to consume. It seems that Canadian comedian and stage performer Rick Miller subscribes to this sort of thinking, and he really runs with it in MacHomer, a shortened version of Macbeth in which every character is performed as a member of The Simpsons.
It has been 100 years since the character first appeared in print, but over that time John Carter of Mars has never made his way to the big screen. That makes Disney’s upcoming John Carter the first film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic science-fiction adventure novel A Princess of Mars. It follows Civil War veteran John Carter, who finds himself transported to Mars (or Barsoom, as the Martians call it), gains super powers and does battle against a race of 15-foot tall, four-armed barbarians in order to save a princess.
A squad of soldiers storms a compound in the midst of an Eastern European urban landscape. The city is torn apart, blasted to pieces by mortar rounds. Bullets fly through the air and the soldiers are hesitant to move forward, but their commander urges them on into the fray. This doesn’t sound like a scene from a Shakespeare play, but that’s exactly what it is in Ralph Fiennes’ updated version of the lesser-known Shakespearean tragedy Coriolanus.
After all the hoopla and awards handed out to The Artist, it’s worth asking, “Is the film any good?” Yes, it is, and while it may lack the dramatic weight that we expect in a Best Picture winner, The Artist is certainly a dazzling film. In the truest sense, The Artist is a comedy. Winner of Best Picture at the 84th Academy Awards, the film is light, it’s charming, its story ends happily and by the time the final credits roll, we’re completely wrapped up in the whole enterprise.
Some plays are so insightful, so vivid and so entertaining that they demand to be turned into films. Or so some producers must think. Unfortunately, what works in the theatre may not always work in the cinema. Such is the case with Carnage. I suspect the Tony Award-winning play by Yasmina Reza may be far more hard-hitting and hilarious than its cinematic counterpart. Nevertheless, while it may not be as vicious as it tries to be, Roman Polanski’s Carnage has enough dark humour and mischievousness to make up for whatever was lost in translation.
It is very tricky to properly portray children on film. They usually come across as either miniature adults or irritating idiots — both inaccurate portrayals of real-life kids. It takes a film as sensitive and observant as Monsieur Lazhar to portray children as they really are. Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards and based on a one-person play by Évelyne de la Chenelière, Philippe Felardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar is a French-Canadian film exploring grief, education and how teachers influence the lives of their students.
Some people find it impossible to take spy thrillers from the ’30s seriously. Apparently playwright Patrick Barlow is one such person. Barlow’s latest play The 39 Steps is a comedic take on the 1915 spy novel by John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir, who was the 15th Governor General of Canada. His novel was adapted into the popular movie by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935. The novel and film were thrillers, meant to captivate the reader or viewer with their classic wrong-man plot and devious German villains. Barlow’s play may keep the exact plot of the film, but his goal isn’t to thrill the audience. It’s to make them laugh.