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A few-must see films at VIFF this year

VIFF, like Reese Witherspoon, is ready to go. She's in the opening film, Wild

 As dilemmas go it’s not an onerous one. But there are wildly different reactions  to it. I’m on about the best approach to the Vancouver International Film Festival which starts Thursday. Do you go for volume and see as many films as you can? There are over 220 full-length features showing this year, including world and local premieres, award winners from around the world and labors of love by hometown filmmakers.

Or do you select a few good ones?  That’s not easy. They’re all highly touted and not always deservedly so. Yes there are always bores among the gems although VIFF in its newly apparent drive to attract new audiences (read: younger) is showing a larger than usual batch of high profile popular titles this year. Reese Witherspoon stars in the opening film, Wild.

Channing Tatum and Steve Carrell are in Foxcatcher.   There are new ones from David Cronenberg and Ivan Reitman and a horror film called It Follows that arrives with rave reviews.

Some people go only for the obscure little films because they may never come back. I prefer to pick from anywhere and here are the ones I’m looking forward to. I haven’t seen many yet because I started late and VIFF has made it harder to preview them this year. But I already have one to warn you against. (See below).

These on my wish list are in no particular order:

TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT is the latest piece of social realism from Belgium’s Dardenne brothers and the latest much-heralded performance by Marion Cotillard. She plays a woman laid off from her job who desperately seeks help from her colleagues.

THE LIBERATOR: An epic biography like we used to get but this one is from Venezuela and has Edgar Ramirez as the revolutionary hero Simon Bolivar. Movies should teach us something now and then.

MR. TURNER:  Also a biopic of sorts about the English painter J.M.W. Turner. Mike Leigh shows his world and how it shaped his art and Timothy Spall won best actor at Cannes for his portrayal.

PHOENIX:  A friend who saw this German film in Toronto says Nina Hoss is terrific as a Holocaust survivor who returns home and suspects it was her husband who betrayed her. Tension, trauma and resuming one’s life all in one package.

MOMMY:  Quebec’s Xavier Dolan gets major praise internationally but not much screen time here in Vancouver. This one is about his difficult relationship with his mother. It won a big award at Cannes where jury head Jane Campion gushed “I love ‘Mommy’ so much — such a great, brilliant, modern film.” Good enough for me.

PREGGOLAND may be the best of a large and apparently stellar B.C. contingent this year. Sonja Bennett wrote it and stars as a woman who pretends she’s pregnant because society demands women bear children. Very funny and clever said Toronto reviewers.

DANGEROUS GAME: Two years ago Anthony Baxter let Donald Trump expose his bullying ways in forcing a small town in Scotland to take a golf course he was building. Very funny, revealing stuff. This is a sequel showing the environmental effects of golf courses in general and more of Trump himself in a direct interview/sermon.

DIFFERENT DRUMMER is the latest documentary from John Zaritsky, the Academy Award winner who lives among us. He takes us up close and personal with a number of eccentrics.

IN SEARCH OF CHOPIN:  England’s Phil Grabsky is always popular for the stories of classical composers he documents and adorns with lots of music. In other musical territories GLEN CAMPBELL: I’LL BE ME shows the country star’s farewell tour and NAS: TIME IS ILLMATIC celebrates the hip hop stars legendary album on its 20th anniversary.

THE BOY FROM GEITA: Last year local documentary maker Vic Sarin explores a form of discrimination called colorism. He continues the theme with the story of a an albino boy in Tanzania who is ostracized and even assaulted because of his color.

COMING HOME: China’s Zhang Yimou once again directs Gong Li in this tale of turmoil, guilt and redemption after the chaotic Cultural Revolution. Highly emotional, I’m told.

And finally the film I’m not recommending: MAPS TO THE STARS, the much-hyped new one from David Cronenberg starring Julianne Moore, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska and others. This one I have seen. It purports to be a satire of Hollywood. I just found it unpleasant. I’ll say more when it screens next week.

There are many others I want to see. I’ll report my reaction when I do.

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