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Tomboy, Café de Flore, Surviving Progress, holiday movies and two festivals

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Often it’s down, into a progress trap, an advance that doesn’t improve anything. Better fishing methods empty the oceans. Industrial agriculture harms the soil. Give everybody a car and watch what happens to the air and the climate. He’s joined by a stellar cast to analyze further, ranging from Jane Goodall, Suzuki again, Margaret Atwood, who’s got a movie of her own coming based on her Massey Lectures, various activists, scientists and economists, to theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who seems ready to give up on our planet.

The problem, as Wright lays it out, is that we’ve got modern technology but a brain that hasn’t much evolved in 50,000 years. We make snap decisions without regard for the long term. We’re destroying our home. The film elaborates with clever visuals and a rigorous intellect and then takes a curious turn to bring in the financial meltdown of three years ago, the debt load the rich nations have foisted on third world nations and the economic power wielded by the “oligarchy”. Strong, compelling stuff. You’d get nods from Marx, Lenin and the Occupy movement but here it feels like a detour.

Harold Crooks, of Montreal, the co-director, and two executive producers, Mark Achbar and Betsy Carson, both Vancouverites, also worked on The Corporation, the celebrated documentary of a few years back. Also listed as executive producer but I suspect far less hands-on is Martin Scorsese. (Rio Theatre on Broadway) 3 ½ out of 5

HOLIDAY FILMS: The VanCity Theatre has scheduled a fine group of films for the holidays, starting with Miracle on 34th Street (Dec 4).

 

It’s not one of the re-makes but the original with Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood. Santa Claus is put on trial. Kids get in free with a nonperishable food bank donation. There are two other Christmas standards, It’s and Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol, the Alistair Sim version (Dec 20 and 22) and several non-seasonal films. Marilyn Monroe appears in her best (Some Like it Hot) and her last (The Misfits). Timely, considering her portrayal in a current movie. There are three films by Terry Gilliam, the first two Thin Man movies for the year end and a spectacular Cinderella by the Birmingham Royal Ballet screening before and after Christmas day. See the whole schedule at http://www.viff.org/theatre/http://www.viff.org/theatre/

WHISTLER FILM FESTIVAL: The smaller, more intimate and (to many) more fun festival continues until Sunday evening. You can still catch any of these highlights and more. Monsieur Lazhar, Canada's Academy Awards entry. Doppelganger Paul, by Vancouver's Dylan Akio Smith, a film getting lots of attention, 388 Arletta Avenue, a Canadian thriller pronounced stylish and entertaining in Toronto,  David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, Guy Maddin's latest, Keyhole, and a new one from another cult favorite, Whit Stillman. Thirteen years since his last one, he's back with Damsels in Distress. There's a new Chinese film starring Jet Li, The Sorcerer and the White Snake, and a special tribute to Michael Shannon, currently starring in and sure to get an Oscar nomination for Take Shelter, which is currently in theatres. You can find more info at www.whistler.com/wff/

The EUROPEAN UNION FILM FESTIVAL also continues over on Howe Street at the Pacific Cinematheque. The immensely entertaining French (but silent) film, The Artist, screens Saturday night. Austria’s Academy Awards entry, Breathing, screens Wednesday and Italy’s acerbic comedy Escape from the Call Centre has some fun with highly educated young people relegated to low pay in boring jobs. It screens Tuesday. You can see the whole schedule including mini write ups on all the films at eufilmfestival.com.

Also now playing …

ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN: is a second film from Brazil about Captain Nascimiento. In the first he made Rio de Janeiro safe for the Pope's visit. Now, promoted to head a Special Police Operations Battalion, he tries to rout the drug gangs out of the city's infamous favelas (pre-dating a real police action that started recently). His successes stir up civil rights  advocates and and bring out enemies even more threatening than the gangs: dirty cops and corrupt politicians. Expect intrigue and lots of violence. "Breathless, brutal and thrilling, it's a gut punch of an action movie", says a reviewer in England. (International Village) 

AN INSIGNIFICANT HARVEY: Another of those little-known Canadian films that glide into town without fanfare. Harvey is a dwarf, played by Jordan Prentice, who you must remember from In Bruges. He’s a janitor at an Ontario ski resort (which surely also rates as “small”) and lives as an  angry and miserable loner. His only friend is the local drug dealer. Then he meets and falls for an exotic dancer. It seems an impossible pairing. The film got decent reviews in Toronto and Ottawa for being funny, sweet and endearing. (Granville Theatre)  

 

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