Mary Lewis to tackle February

    Posted on: Friday, January 6th, 2012

It’s one of Newfoundland’s worst months and best books. February, by Lisa Moore, centres around Helen, a mother of four widowed by the Ocean Ranger disaster. Zipping back and forth in time, it follows grief’s path as it carves its way through the lives of Helen and her children. Moore herself adapted the book for the stage at this year’s Winterset in Summer literary festival, and she said it was tough to do. Now, award-winning filmmaker, actress, animator and writer Mary Lewis is going to wrestle it into a screenplay. I caught up with her to ask her all about it.

When did you start working on this?
I set out and wrote a treatment of it last August and I hadn’t done anything with it since, but I just recently recieved an endorsement from the NLFDC and the NLAC, so I’m working on it in earnest now.

Have you ever adapted a book to a screenplay before?
I did do that once before, I was hired to adapat a book, but that film was never made. So, I guess it was sort of an exercise more than anything.

Okay. So, how’s February going?
It’s really a very emotional book – it’s got a huge emotional impact. It’s the story of Helen whose husband, Cal, goes down in the Ocean Ranger disaster. It’s really about how she survives that and overcomes that loss, and I guess it’s about how a broken heart mends throughout the course of a lifetime. It also asks the question of whether it’s possible to love someone who is gone and whether we have the responsibility to continue that love, and how we put to rest this intense emotion for someone who is no longer with us. And the question of death is explored through this woman who is a tree of life for so many people – she’s a mother herself, and she’s helped one of her kids raise two children.

So, writing this screenplay is a challenge in a lot of ways because the book itself is very elastic in time – it moves throughout time, and it covers a very wide breadth of time, from the time Helen is in her mid-twenties to when she’s in her fifties. You can do that with a book, but you can’t do that with a screenplay. With a screenplay, you have to pick and choose the stories you’ll tell, so I’ll be forced to tell a different story. Realistically, you wouldn’t be able to have ten diferent eras and ten different sets of actors playing those characters at different ages; I’ll have to choose three different time periods.

It’s also a very interior novel, so I’ll have to lose lots of story lines to accomodtae that.

It’s all about honouring the heart of the book and the characters and to find the throughline that will work for a two-hour movie.

In fact I’m going to rewrite the treatment; I want to hone it a bit more.

Are you finding it hard to turn this into a screenplay?
It’s quite different. An adaptation is a whole different thing from the screenplays that I’ve written. In this, I feel I have a responsdibility to honour what I feel is so stunning asbout that novel. It’s a big job, and I haven’t directed a feature film yet, so when I get there, that will be a whole new thing, too.

But my films do create an interior world of the protagonists, that’s something I’ve always tried to do. I’ve done that in the past using animation, and I’m going to consider doing that for this film as well. And also just the exploration of memory, and how time changes memory, and how our memory affects our experience in the present, which is another theme that I’ve looked at in my work. And family, the power of family and the power of love, those are things that I’m interested in – strength in facing death, and loss and grief… Those are all themes that I’ve been interested in and they’re in my work before this.

What was it about this book that made you want to turn it into a movie?
I just found the book to be profoundly moving and full of emotion. It wasn’t so much the story itself, but this book wasn’t so much about the story as it was about the character and her inner life. I just thought, ‘Wow, it would be an amazing film if you could capture that and make it work on film.’

When you when you read a great story, you can imagine how it would work on film, but I’m not sure that anyone can immediately see February as a film in that way, and I’m really enjoying that challenge.

Winter with the MUN Cinema Series

    Posted on: Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Set aside your Thursday nights; the Winter 2012 MUN Cinema Series schedule is out and it looks fantastic. Films are shown at 7:00pm on Thursdays, at Empire Theatres at the Avalon Mall, beginning on January 12th. Tickets are available starting at 6pm the night of the screening at the theatre.

All descriptions below provided by the MUN Cinema Series (and written, presumably, by Noreen Golfman).

January 12: CAFÉ DE FLORE (Canada/France 2011) 120 min. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. With Vanessa Paradis, Kevin Parent, Hélène Florent, Evelyne Brochu et al. French with English subtitles. How lucky are we to be launching the winter series with this masterpiece from the incomparable Vallée! If you recall his brilliant work in C.R.A.Z.Y. then you will anticipate the accomplishment of this story of love and loss. The film follows two main narrative streams in two different times—now in Montreal and forty years ago in Paris. In the present day, a man wants to leave his beautiful wife for another, younger beautiful woman. His kids are not amused. The abandoned wife, meanwhile, is experiencing nightmares and fits, imagining a woman of forty years ago living through similar feelings. In that story, the husband leaves because the child has Down’s syndrome. Threading the stories is the backbeat of some fabulous tracks. As the diva sang, Music makes the people come together. Music mix the bourgeoisie and the rebel. The stories are parallel and not obviously connected except in theme, and until the very ending. You need to stay through the closing credits, people. You will emerge shaken and stirred.

January 19: LE HAVRE (Finland/France/Germany 2011) 93 min. Directed by Aki Kaurismäk. With André Wilms, Blondin Miguel, Jean-Pierre Darroussin et al. French with English subtitles. Voted by many critics as the best film of 2011, this is a story of the local encountering the global. A fable for our time, LE HAVRE is set in the title’s northwestern French town. Central to the action is Marcel, a modest man who shines shoes at the port and worries about his younger wife’s sudden illness. When a runaway African boy falls into Marcel’s life, the shoe shiner must make some choices, even while the authorities are hot on his trail. Deadpan, droll, and subtle with its suspense, LE HAVRE is a charming dream of possibility—imagining a world in which human beings behave the way they are supposed to, but most often do not. Of course, behaving well is not always as easy as it looks.

January 26: FRENCH IMMERSION (Canada 2011). 98 min. Directed by Kevin Tierney. With Karine Vanasse, Olunike Adeliyi, Martha Burns et al. French and English. Too close to the bone to get wider circulation? You decide. We think FRENCH IMMERSION is the perfect Canadian film about which critics on both sides of the language debate agree – they almost all panned the film as outrageous, cartoon-like, even offensive. But check out the Globe and Mail’s critic, who observed that this is a “farcical send-up of English-Canadian and Québécois customs, French Immersion is fondly reminiscent of rollicking British comedies of the sixties. The film could be titled Carry On Up the St. Lawrence.” Franchement, we also see it that way—a deliberate exaggeration of a sometimes absurd reality: anglos and francophones going at it over nothing more than the size of a sign, an apostrophe, or a coach whose French isn’t quite Hab(itant)s enough. Get the picture? Director Tierney, who brought us the universally adored Bon Cop Bad Cop, understands political incorrectness like the back of a puck. He shoots/il lance; he scores.

February 2: MELANCHOLIA (Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany 2011) 136 min. Directed by Lars von Trier. With Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland et al. Many critics observed that 2011 was the year of the apocalypse—in film. You don’t have to be a vampire to recognize that we seem preoccupied with the end of things (Tree of Life blah blah blah). But who would have suspected director von Trier to have come up with such a benign version of this theme? Famously now, the film opens with an eight-minute overture set to Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde.” It’s Justine and Michael’s wedding day, and a planet called Melancholia is hurtling towards Earth. Happy and sad come together like opposing particle beams. Largely through the disturbed, unpredictable behavior of the bride (Dunst), the film develops a slow beat of anxiety and dread. Perhaps a catastrophic collusion with the planet might not be such a bad thing, after all. People do anticipate it in different ways. Profoundly metaphysical, confident in its gorgeous spectacle of human nature, MELANCHOLIA is a hypnotic experience you will either embrace or deny. Unlike the case of the advancing planet, there’s no predicting.

February 9: MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (UK/USA 2011) 99 min. Directed by Simon Curtis. With Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh et al. Can you believe this film didn’t even play mainstream here? Well, we’re smarter than the distributers. The film is based on the true story of a young man named Colin Clark, who got to spend yummy time with the blond icon of the 20th century on the set of “The Prince and the Showgirl” (1957), a movie being directed in England by another 20th century icon, Laurence Olivier. Marilyn Monroe’s husband, playwright Arthur Miller, was away in Paris and production was stalled, and so she asked the disbelieving, lucky young man to join her in the country. What happened? Not much. Or did it? The point is not really sex, but the experience of being with Marilyn in all her wonderfulness for a week. Michelle Williams plays her with an Oscar Award attentiveness—a complex hybrid of insecurity, vivaciousness, wit, and anxiety. It’s Marilyn for a week, more than most could wish for, and more than enough to glean the fragile core of an enigmatic beauty.

February 16: THE GUARD (Ireland 2011) 96 min. Directed by John Michael McDonagh. With Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong et al. We’ll line up for anything featuring Brendan Gleason. Here he is the cop of the title, as Irish as Barack O’Bama, a stout brick of a man, at least two jigs ahead of an American FBI agent—the comic foil. Played by Don Cheadle, who has come to Galway to look into a drug-related murder, the FBI guy is the perfect opposite to Gleason’s Gerry Boyle. The plot is thick and menacing, but the fun of the drama lies in their intense exchange, fraught as it is with creative conflict. Boyle knows all about African Americans from television, probably Rupert Murdoch’s version. Cheadle’s Agent Everett knows all about the Irish from a lot of bad jokes. Not surprisingly, their conversations depend on outrageous stereotypes. We laugh, sometimes nervously. There are drugs, really bad guys (from evil Dublin, of course), false leads, menacing situations, and a suspenseful shoot-out, but mostly there is Gleason in almost every scene—irresistibly, brilliantly performing one of the most memorable characters ever seen on screen.

February 23: THE SKIN THAT I LIVE IN (Spain 2011) 117 min. Directed by Pedro Almodóvar. With Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Jan Cornet et al. Spanish with English subtitles. Spanish auteur Almodóvar launched the career of Antonio Banderas who ended up marrying a Hollywood actor who’s had a lot of plastic surgery (Melanie Griffith) and bumping through an uneven career in mainstream stuff. Here Almodóvar brings his protégé back to Spain to make nothing short of an edgy psychological thriller—a story about a plastic surgeon obsessed with refashioning the faces—and bodies—of others. Coincidence…? We’re just sayin’. As Dr. Robert Ledgard, the accomplished Madrid-based surgeon, Banderas is almost shockingly good looking. So what if he keeps a beautiful woman imprisoned in his mansion basement, or starts to resemble a doctor named Frankenstein? We want to see him as good–that is, until we can’t. The film unpacks a powerful set of past events that inform the present-day doctor’s character. With full Almodóvarian dramatic irony, the bad doctor Ledgard doesn’t fully understand his own obsession either. Sumptuously shot, as we have come to expect from the passionate director, the film sews together a thick layer of plotlines, all in the name of truth and beauty.

March 1: LIKE CRAZY (USA 2011) 90 min. Directed by Drake Doremus . With Felicity Jones, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence et al. A triumph at Sundance, on the critics’ best lists for 2011, we love this film LIKE CRAZY. First love is the sweetest, if not the deepest, and so it is that the film tracks the development of such a couple in such a condition. Jacob, a senior college student in L.A., falls head over heels for Anna, a London exchange student. Their love is like a red red rose—perfect, beautiful, utterly romantic. The thorny part is that Anna has to return to London, and so the course of love, like this mixed metaphor, hits some snags. Can love ever sustain such long distance and time? Who hasn’t asked this question and tried to answer it with agonizing longing? Everyone adores the performance of Felicity Jones as Anna. She won the biggest prize at Sundance for it, and when you see this film you’ll understand why.

March 8: A DANGEROUS METHOD (UK/Germany/Canada/Switzerland 2011) 99 min. Directed by David Cronenberg. With Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen et al. Is there anyone more suited to film the world’s most famous friendship and falling out? Who else but David Cronenberg, the master of psychodrama, sexual perversity, and split personality would even have the audacity to take on the vexed relationship of Freud and Jung? Sexy ‘It Boy’ of the moment, Michael Fassbender, plays Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung with enough conviction to make you believe in the collective unconscious. Keira Knightley plays Sabina Spielrein, his patient/lover who embodies the most delicious neurotic tendencies, a lab experiment all to herself. Witness to this romantic tempest is that bearded guy with the pipe and a great couch. Viggo Mortensen plays the ‘father of modern psychiatry’ with typically professional cool. Appropriate to the subject matter, A DANGEROUS METHOD focuses more on talk than on sexual action. Were these men both obsessed with an hysterical woman or with each other? Sometimes a homo-erotic relationship is just a homo-erotic relationship.

March 15: MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (USA 2011) 102 min. Directed by Sean Durkin. With Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes et al. The title’s a mouthful, but then if you had been indoctrinated into a strange and perverse cult you’d have a whole new bunch of names, too. Elizabeth Olsen does a star turn as the many-monikered central figure, a damaged and vulnerable woman. Martha is therefore ripe for the charismatic seductiveness of Patrick, leader of a hippyish cult in upper New York State—a bucolic site where on the surface everything seems utopian. The film is quite deliberate in its focused description of how someone like a Martha could ever submit to such patriarchal submission. As Patrick, John Hawkes gives a compelling performance of a man with a power women seem to crave. The film cuts back and forth between the experience in the cult and Martha’s ostensible post-cult recovery at her affluent sister’s summer home some years later. One has to ask: is life in the materially rich real world any better than the one in the cult? The sleeping arrangements are better, at least.

March 22: RESTLESS (USA 2011) 91 min. Directed by Gus Van Sant. With Mia Wasikowska, Henry Hopper, Ryo Kase et al. Director Van Sant has long been interested in the mushy, awkward, unformed, fragile world of the teenager. Typically, the two central characters here meet cute at a funeral. He has been orphaned; she has brain cancer. Hell, why not fall in love? For this controversial director, everything is almost always domed anyway. Set in the impossibly hip town of Portland, RESTLESS features Dennis Hopper’s son Henry (is that perfect casting or what?) as Enoch, the troubled loner with a bad case of existentialism. Adorable Mia Wasikowska is Annabel, the walking embodiment of the word waif. Good news is that neither of them seems to have discovered sexting, and so they actually communicate in charming, tender, face-to-face ways. Yes, it’s a tear jerker, but in the hands of such an accomplished director it is easy to submit to the view that a life lived well and in the full bloom of love is better than one lived long and empty.

March 29: CARNAGE (France/Germany/Poland 2011) 79 min. Directed by Roman Polanski. With Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilley. Great title for a film by the infamous Polish auteur. This dream cast of four heavyweights chews through the harsh and witty lines like jawbreakers. Based on a Tony-award winning play, CARNAGE is exquisitely sharp in its dissection of the empty discourse (and morality) of the modern middle class. It all begins with a schoolyard fight between two boys, moving to an initially polite conversation and then escalating to an all-out battle between the parents of the boys at a well appointed Brooklyn apartment. Polanski is a master of space, subtly framing the dialogue in carefully angled shots of the apartment, steadily fashioning the prison of words in which the characters find themselves. As the director well knows, appearances are everything. What you say comes from what you see. Some critics were savage about this film. What do they know? We think it’s a superb analysis of class attitude, social behavior, and the sheer horror of the everyday.

April 5: MONSIEUR LAZHAR (Canada 2011) 94 min. Directed by Philippe Falardeau. With Mohamed Fellag, Sophie Nélisse and Émilien Néron. If only Canadian films had better distribution. We should be talking about this film in every coffee shop. That we are not is a scandal. Sigh … Even if you do not know Montreal you will love this film about the current, complex world of student-teacher relations in that global village. The title figure is a substitute, filling in for a much loved teacher who killed herself. Bachir Lazhar is not only a stranger but he is faced with helping his young company to heal after the shock of loss—and discovery of the body. An Algerian immigrant with his own nervous history and legal status to manage, Lazhar comes to reveal more about himself and his own capacity to learn through his subtle and often surprising interactions with his students. Canada’s proud entry in the Oscar race, this is one of the best movies you will see all year.

Regular season pass: $72.00
Student/Senior: $66.00

Regular 6-pass: $45.00
Student-Senior: $40.00

There is no guaranteed seating for pass holders. A pass may be used to admit at most two people to any single screening. If two people are admitted on a single pass, the pass will be punched twice.

The films are open to the public and all tickets must be purchased at the Avalon Mall. The MUN Cinema sets up a table near the theatre food court about an hour before each MUN Cinema screening.

For more information: Noreen Golfman / e-mail: or / phone: 864-2478

The Year’s Best Movies

    Posted on: Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

I caught RBC Michelle Jackson Award winner Allison White’s directorial debut Decolored at this year’s International Women’s Film Festival, and was struck by how natural and easy the film’s dialogue was – I’m a stickler for awkward MovieSpeak. So, I was interested to see what her top picks were, given that she seems to be a top-notch writer. Here they are, in her own words:

“I first need to say that I haven’t seen a pile of films that I wanted to, so not included in the running are : Drive, Melancholia, A Separation, Moneyball, & Hugo to name a few.

“Now.. onto the hard task of naming the top five. (Features obviously right? Cause I saw an awful lot of wonderful shorts this year too) I’m sure I”m forgetting some. For different reasons, I loved:

5. Nuit #1

4. Kotoko

3. i am a good person/i am a bad person

2. Super 8

1. Tree of Life

Honorable mention: Attack the Block

Worst film: Killer Joe (I walked out before I was even through the first act. BAD.)”

Post Espresso Bar

    Posted on: Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

The year 2011 turned out to be a banner one for downtown St. John’s.

Hava Java made a big and brave move to a new space, Rocket Food filled the Auntie Crater that the once mainstay specialty foods shop left behind, some shops closed down while still more opened anew, and two even merged to form a super boutique.

An exciting new resto and lounge has just opened in that lovely little alcove on the west end of George Street (more on that in a future post, no doubt), and just last week an espresso bar by the name of Post opened its doors at 168 Water Street, which is where I happily find myself as I type.

From the decor to the way the coffee rolls richly over your palette, it’s obvious that a heightened attention to detail has been paid to every aspect of Post’s execution. There’s a certain je-ne-sais feng shui about the way the space is arranged, an Asian influence meeting peacefully with contemporary Western minimalism, that put me at ease the moment I walked through the door. The presence of owner and operator, David Bowden, with his calm and kind demeanour, follows through on that initial impression and makes it clear that Post is more than just a satisfying façade layered overtop an otherwise ordinary coffee shop.

As it turns out, the influences over Post’s execution are the combined results of Bowden’s personal interests and the serendipitous results of his pursuits thereof over the last few years.

A combination of earning a Linguistics degree in Icelandic, training and eventually competing as a barista in Ottawa and his acceptance into the Dalhousie Architecture program, along with an overall appreciation for Japanese and South Korean culture, has resulted in Bowden’s realization of a cafe in which he says he just wants to love spending time in every day.

The two distinct cultural influences are everywhere, but perhaps most easily recognized in the four different loyalty cards available to customers, each of which gives you the opportunity to learn the numbers one through five in either Finnish, Icelandic, Korean or Japanese.

His architectural tendencies reveal themselves in the careful and deliberate arrangement of the space, while Bowden’s gifts as a barista speak for themselves the moment you take your first sip of the beverage he’s prepared for you.

To top it all off, Post offers a wide range of gluten free baked goods and deserts. As more and more people come to discover and/or accept their varying degrees of intolerance to the glue-tonne (which more or less describes the feeling it leaves in my stomach), it’s encouraging to see this being recognized outside the realm of one’s own kitchen.

Downtown St. John’s is fortunate enough to have a lot of locally owned cafes to choose from, especially considering that each has its own unique qualities which distinguish it from the rest. Post certainly fits that bill, setting itself apart in just about every way conceivable (I mean, they even have an iPad for a cash register).

I highly recommend you come down and experience Post for yourself. They are open daily from 8am to 8pm for the rest of 2011, and starting in 2012 their hours will extend to 10pm. To find out more about Post, be sure to check their website, which contains a link to their rather enjoyable tumblr.

The Year’s Best Movies

    Posted on: Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Good ol’ Darcy Fitzpatrick. He’s the reason this blog exists and persists, he’s a helluva filmmaker, and he’s a fantastic writer. He gave us his list of Top Five Favourite 2011 Films complete with concise, insightful little write-ups. Here they are:

Super 8
I haven’t felt that excited watching a movie in a long time. Yes, the film has its problems, primarily with regards to the representation of the alien, but beyond that it’s just pure adventure, and an homage to the (lost) art of story telling. I loved it.

Kung Fu Panda 2
Speaking of the lost art of storytelling, why is it that we now must rely almost solely on the animation studios to give us the rich, detailed plots and characters we as audience members deserve? KFP2 is the latest in a series of exquisitely realized character-driven adventure stories from Dreamworks, who, in my mind, are really giving Pixar a run for their money.

Attack The Block
Now the Brits understand the value of story, to the point where they can comfortably bend and combine genres to great character and plot enhancing effect. Attack The Block could have easily been misconstrued as b-movie fodder by an American studio, but writer director Joe Cornish (Hot Fuzz, anyone?) certainly knew better and the results, stylish and substantial, speak for themselves.

A River In The Woods
Yes, it’s a short film. And yes, it was made by some friends of mine. None of this changes the fact that this was one of the best films I’ve seen all year. I watched this alone in my apartment, and luckily so. As soon as it was over, the moment the first credit rolled, I started sobbing uncontrollably, and I kept on sobbing for what must have been 20 minutes. There’s something incredibly magical, dangerous even, about this film. It gets you in places you’re not ready for it to get.

Sleeping Beauty
This is an Australian character study film, controversial in subject matter but refreshing in the restraint it shows in just letting the character be. We’re never explained all too much about where her actions come from, we just see it all unfold and unravel. Spider-like patience in the writing and direction from Julie Leigh holds back on forcing the tensions to build, and in that permits them their full breadth of constriction on the viewer.

And even though I haven’t seen it yet…

Tree of Life
I missed the one-time screening St. John’s had of this, and have been kicking myself ever since. While I can rent the movie any time on my Apple TV and see it in good ol’ HD, it just won’t be the same. Not that I won’t ever see it. I guess the timing has to be just right. But I can pretty much assure you, had I seen Tree of Life, it would have been in my top five. I mean, it’s Terrence Malick. C’mon.

Got a list of Five Faves? Send it to Bonus points if you go the extra mile and tell us why you chose them, as evidenced above.