A Day with Ricardo Acosta

Two weekends ago I had the privilege to spend the day with a small group of editors and Ricardo Acosta.

Ricardo Acosta was born in Cuba and moved to Canada to pursue his passions for storytelling and art.

"I was born into an ideology and punished by an ideology" - Ricardo

He is one of the few who are born with the gift of storytelling. He shared detailed philosophies with us and screened his feature length documentary, Marmato.

BUY HERE.

"Every story at the beginning is a beautiful Pandora's Box" - Ricardo

The biggest lesson he said all editors need to understand is the power of an event. Looking at the macro details, and figuring out how to deal with that event in context. Further, then understanding how the events affect the bigger picture.

Marmato is a great example of a team that is both creatively and technically strong. Mark Grieco, the DOP, is passionate, patient, and dedicated to immersing himself in the culture of the people he is capturing in order to do justice to the story. Mark took time to understand the rituals of the people before he turned the camera on.

In one instance, Ricardo stated that Mark stood for 10 hours straight capturing a meeting with the miners and corporate company taking over the mountain. This made Ricardo's life as an editor much easier because the footage contained a certain richness.

EDITING

Editing is invisible. The audience does not understand how a movie is affecting them, but they feel something emotionally. The emotion conveyed from the edit moves them through the story. The technique behind creating this effect comes with patience. Ricardo recalled one time when his friend visited and took a look at the timeline: "This is neurotic, where are the shots?" Ricardo laughed and did a sweeping motion with his hand: "here!"

After consulting with the director on story, it is time to determine characters and imagery to support transitions. When you are creating character profiles in documentary editing, it is important to treat each person with respect. 

"I am not a judge, I am a facilitator" - Ricardo

This type of editing creates a full story, untampered with strong opinion and empowers the viewer to make choices about the situation. 

Editing is about finding poetry. Ricardo used a lot of imagery as transitions in Marmato to convey mood and prepare the viewer for the next chain of events. The figure of Jesus in the clouds stands in stark contrast to the vultures on a tin roof spraying out their wings. This, he calls, is the power of identifying metaphor. Assign images a role and keep this consistent throughout. Remember the goal is to keep the seems invisible.

Have fun with the footage, enhance it if it supports the story: "I'm not against anything if it feels right!" - Ricardo. The power of impressionistic montage to deliver emotion is one technique Ricardo uses.

"create embroidery in between scene" - Ricardo

Some story issues can only be embraced by text. Others, music. Sound mixing is the last ritual of editing. 

"Sound is what is happening outside the frame. That is its three dimensional quality. I have to feel how a story sounds." - Ricardo

The class finished with some final powerful words. Ricardo insisted that everything is drama, everything is life! You have to build something from the inside out. Never dilute the power of your tools!

A truly wonderful and gifted individual. Ricardo is a philosopher, a mover of emotions and words, a storyteller, and a editor to look to. Thank you CCE for allowing us to take this seminar.

- Jenn

Beeba Boys, A Contemporary Toronto Gangster Film

Set and filmed in contemporary Toronto, Deepa Mehta's newest feature film Beeba Boys is a smash hit. It had its World Premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

Some of her earlier films, Water, Earth, Fire, and Bollywood Hollywood, have placed her securely in Canada's canon of filmmakers. This feature however, is a bit different.

In an interview, Deepa was asked why she wanted to suddenly create a gangster themed film. Her reply: "I just want to create something that is bad ass."

Let's take a look at in greater detail:

1. Where does this film take us? Well it is actually a very familiar landscape. Toronto. Today. But there is something unique and cinematic about its approach. The contemporary film uses floating steadicam movements to tell the story. Its ideologies are presented using clashing images: vibrant suits of the gang members set against simple shaded backdrops, violent dialogue and beautiful scenery, city life (penthouse) and suburbia, gang loyalty and family love. 

2. How did the film make me feel? I was completed glued to my seat. I bought into the filmic world instantly and was taken on a whirlwind journey. Emotionally, there was some sympathy and admiration for the gang members, almost sadness when they died. Deepa's attention to detail, while drawing on a contemporary and clean aesthetic, was a pleasure to behold. 

3. How did this help me understand the world a little better? It was another window into a world very different from my own yet only next door and within reach. Deepa's subject matter always touches on her culture (Indian). Therefore, the film was a breath of fresh air because it features few male or female white leads. Further, it presents strong and intelligent men and women of colour. More films of this nature should be main stream to prove how diversity on screen can be equally successful at telling a compelling story. The main figures who are white were presented as empty caricatures. It's about time someone fought back against the prejudice on screen. Thank you Deepa for showcasing different perspectives and cultures.

4. Did it deliver fun and surprises? SURE. It was a gangster film. Maybe we all secretly wish we could evade the law like those characters on screen and live a high-risk life. Reckless behaviour, clubbing, romancing, brotherhood and sisterhood. Wealth, riches, and respect!

5. Was there a transformative experience? I think the film did a great job at delivering on the gangster genre. It set up a network of brotherhood. It contrasted this with several emotion scenes: several romances and family drama. Then, the main hero/villain has a moment of clarity and strays from his path of gangster-hood to do the right thing and dies for it. Therefore it met my fullest expectations.

A must see movie that is hitting theatres very shortly. And of course I got to see the whole cast at the Women in Film and Television gala night. Quite a handsome group!

- Jenn

A Night with Nickolas De Pencier: DOC Masters' Series Class

One of the many organizations I have joined this year is the Documentary Organization of Canada. I came across this gem at Hot Docs Film Festival 2015.

DOC offers programming to emerging film professionals for a variety of roles.

Technicolour studio

This month's masters series class was on cinematography and lead by Nickolas De Pencier. He is known for his TIFF success, Watermark (2013). 

Nickolas graduated from school with a BA' in English Lit. and Art History. Growing up as a photographer who developed b / w photos from film, he carried this love over to working on set in a variety of roles. 

Laughing to himself, he says he never chose film as a career. Especially not documentary. He started working on feature film sets for drama and fiction. From PA'ing to grip, he tried out every role to get a good sense of the entire process.

"Start small and be excited about everything" - Nickolas.

On his spare time, he worked on dance films. His roommate at the time knew a group of dancers and Nickolas developed his cinematographic eye through fun experimentation.

After deciding that fiction film was not a long term career for him, he jumped ship to documentary filmmaking. Not only did he change subject matter, but he made the leap from film to digital.

My favourite part about De Pencier's talk was his philosophies, some of which I will share with you below:

"Rare link between subject and what you are reporting"
"Authentic subject = unobtrusive cameraman"
"Use what is there, the mechanics of production. The smaller the better"
"creatively owning camera is better"
"Ask yourself what can this camera do..."
"ethics of DOC filmmaking: good practice leading to stronger material"
"there is a difference between an authentic relationship in film and an expose film"

He then shared two of his personal mantras that I shall carry forward with me for life:

"never move until it improves on stillness"
"something human is more dear to me than all the world"

Nickolas ended his talk by addressing questions from the audience, one of which asked about the future of DOC filmmaking in terms of finding funding. He suggested that the current model of sponsorship may change in five years. Most DOC full length films attract a niche audience, meaning it is hard to make a solid living off of it. He has, though, and is living proof. Perhaps that generation is dying out slowly but it is good to see someone who is able to make it while still inhabiting the outskirts of the filmmaking industry. Further, as a filmmaking you might have to weigh in whether your sponsor has the same agenda as you or is looking to improve business through product placement and ads. This can affect the authenticity of your film and whether your film receives funding or not. It is always a delicate line to balance on.

Thank you DOC for such a great evening spent at Technicolour (Toronto) and the chance to play around with top gear sponsored by Vistek.

- Jenn

Far From the Madding Crowd: A Feminist Text

The newly adapted Thomas Hardy novel, Far From the Madding Crowd, came to theaters two months ago. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg and starring Carey Mulligan (Bathsheba Everdene), Matthias Schoenaerts (Mr. Gabriel Oak), and Tom Sturridge (Sergeant Francis Troy).

Written in 1874, this book exemplifies a feminist text with a strong female protagonist who is in a unique position of owning a business, estate, life and all without a husband by her side. Three different men vie for her attention. As a Victorian woman, she is able to choose a romantic attachment without anyone's opinion. Her father and any living male relative has passed away and her choices are entirely her own.

  1. Where did this film take me? To a romantic and rustic country side. Unlike Jane Austen's novels which used the countryside as a stark contrast to a bustling London city and the gossipers at bath, this film is truly a breath of fresh air. No mention of the city, no gossip, just pure small time England living. What makes this film particularly unique is that the protagonist is not only female, but she is in control of her choices, mind, and life. Uninfluenced by any male character, and willing to stand up for her beliefs, Bathesheda (Carry) inherits a farm and builds a stable business. As an entrepreneur she forces the county to accept and respect her as an equal individual. She challenges male authority without overstepping her feminine boundaries and carefully navigates her way into a position of respect.
  2. How did this make me feel? There were moments of sadness, happiness, romance, and humour. The film was paced in a way that balanced all the emotions together. If you are familiar with Thomas Hardy's work, you can emotionally prepare yourself for a story filled with unrequited love, blossoming friendships, love triangles, and couples that get together at the very last second. Most Hardy stories are also difficult to swallow at times. In Far From the Madding Crowd, the primary example that sticks out is the death of all the sheep at the beginning. Mr. Oak, saddened by the loss of his fortune, herd, potential eligibility to marry Bathesheda, and livelihood, shoots the dog responsible for sending the sheep over the cliff. At the same time, Bathesheda loses her uncle and inherits a fortune. The tables have turned completely. Once a poor farm girl, though charming and beautiful and educated, now she an heiress and eligible to make a solid match in the country. Mr. Oak's chances of marriage plumate and he becomes her shepard, unable to buy her the piano she wanted. Hardy is also good at writing in realistic characters that are both frustrating, and prone to erroring. However, the usual male judgement that is present in most Victorian novels and stories was absent. "I know I did something I thought I would never do. I married a red coat and I believe I made a mistake. And I don't want your opinion," Bathesheda to Gabriel Oak in observation of her drunk husband. The protagonist is able to discover her feelings in an unadulterated world. Jane Austen's Anne Elliot (Persuasion, 1814) made two impactful errors in her early twenties: one is allowing someone to give her an opinion, and the other  was to take the advice of her friend and ignore her true feelings. Gabriel Oak wanted to leave the farm much earlier, but stuck to Bathesheda's side out of protection of her estate and fortune when she married. She did not ask or want his judgement, knowing full well she had chosen a poor match. BUT it was clear how grateful she was of his attachment. This made me feel that finally I can relate to a woman in a lead position who is strong, educated, and NORMAL. Thank you Vinterberg for preserving this uniqueness in a Hardy text.

  3. Did it help me understand a new world better? It was not so much a new world, but a way of life I believe in was finally realized on screen. A world that exists but is constantly ignored or romanticized on screen. Far From the Madding Crowd is a normal female fantasy come true: a woman decides her own destiny and supports her own life. This does not mean she is without a heart or feelings, and that she is not interested in marriage. It just means she doesn't "have" to get married to make something of herself. 

  4. Did the movie deliver fun and surprises? The biggest surprise and gratification came in the scriptwriting and Carry Mulligan's exception performance. One part in particular really epitomizes this film for me at the forefront of feminism and celebrating strong females onscreen. When Bathesheda visits WIlliam Boldwood (Michael Sean) for the second time to hear his marriage proposal, he demands that she chose what she feels for him at that moment.

"Well is it respect or like?" William Boldwood. "It is hard to express myself in language constructed by men to express their emotions," Bathesheda.

She asserts her dominance and equality and sets the stakes high. She will not be defined or controlled. She even tells Mr. Oak at the beginning he would never be able to tame her. She is an uncontrollable force. This was the biggest surprise and the most fun and enjoyment I have had at a movie in a long time.

5.    Did the characters have a transformative experience and / or did I? I think the main character has a very simple transformative experience.  She finally realizes her true feelings and is able to express them. The film is after all an outward expression of an inner self. What is said through dialogue becomes less important than what is NOT said. Bathesheda tells Mr. Oak her issues but clarifies by saying, "And I don't want your opinion." We never hear what Mr. Oak actually has to say and this is the tension that mounts and builds throughout the narrative. We are never even truly relieved of this tension at the end as Bathesheda still dictates the drama. 

Overall I think this film is unique, strongly feminist while honouring the historical drama genre. The adaptation of Hardy's novel was extremely well done and had me smiling throughout. IF you have NOT read a Hardy text you are in for a treat. Do not fret, for things do seem unbearably bleak at the best of times. Hardy always pulls through and gives you the satisfaction you deserve. Also a good read: The Guardian: Far From the Madding Crowd.

- Jenn

Women in Film and Television: My First WIFT-T Meeting in Toronto

I attended an AGM event this past Monday with WIFT. Hosted downtown Toronto at Goodman LP, I found myself immersed in a group of talented and career driven women.

| What WIFT-T excels at is creating a supportive community where women can meet, network, voice our concerns, face common challenges, and celebrate our triumphs. No other organization does this for women filmmakers - Stephanie Law, WIFT website.

What an organization like this does for women is provide a platform for women to discuss challenges, issues, and everyday career obstacles together in a non-judgmental atmosphere. From entry level industry members to members with 30+ years of experience, WIFT-T excitedly invites anyone and everyone who is interested.

Membership Flexibility

Membership is flexible and based on your industry experience. This is important because some of their networking events and professional development courses are catered to level of expertise in the industry.

The thing I am looking forward to the most as a new member with WIFT is the educational opportunities and course modules they organize and host. These intuitive courses are catered directly to industry professionals and offered for a fraction of the price of other development courses. 

Media Business: Marketing and Distribution

The landscape for our industry is changing. Digital media is going to take over TV distribution sooner or later. We have to stay at the forefront and be a part of the box that pushes the boundaries for content creation. WIFT provides incubator programs for emerging talent that go through the entire production and business end of media creation. They offer a Digital Media Bootcamp course:

| Content creators will learn about the technical environments available to them to tell their stories and distribute their work – plus manage projects on deadline and on budget. Participants will leave confident with the understanding of what it takes to get their original or digital extension project executed. This program was formerly called the Convergent Media Program - WIFT website.

Other exciting events to look forward to: a short film festival championing member work, a TIFF reception party, and networking opportunities.

At the AGM I met the Chair, Joanna Webb. She approached me with a smile and personally welcomed me to the event. I felt instantly warm and at home. I also got to talk to a new board member, Andra Sheffer, who has such an inspiring career tract: from working at festivals to being the CEO of the Independent Production Fund and other Canadian film industry companies. This was enough for me. I felt included, excited, and on board with their mission statement.

If you are interested in joining, visit their website and check out all the flexible membership options.

- Jenn

*Stay tuned for our blog tomorrow: In Conversation with Andrea Ziedenberg, Far From the Madding Crowd.

Horrifying, Thoughtful & Atmospheric - It Follows Review

There has been a spate of horror remakes in recent years, adding more realistic gore and pointless backstories to films like Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween. And there have been even more low-budget gore flicks pouring into VOD distributors. They leave my poor heart wanting more.

Thankfully, writer-director David Robert Mitchell has come to my rescue with an atmospheric and thoughtful horror film, It Follows. Director David Robert Mitchell pays homage to the horror greats. Maika Monroe, as Jay, tries to outrun and outwit her supernatural foe, alongside her Scoobies, Keir Gilchrist as Paul, Olivia Luccardi as Yara, Lili Sepe as Kelly, Jake Weary as Jeff, and Daniel Zovatto as Greg, the resident greasy hunk. Float away with me to a land of fear and beauty as I review It Follows (2014)!

  1. Where does this film take us? It Follows exists in a dreamy, nostalgic time-space. The colours are muted pastel, the score is reminiscent of 70s/80s horror music, there are black and white movies playing on an old TV, but there is also a futuristic e-reader and a lack of slang. It is not past, present, or future. It is timeless.
  2. How did this film make us feel? The film has many wide shots with long takes, the audience is constantly monitoring the image, looking for the being that haunts the characters. You are never at ease. There are very few cheap scares. By relying on sustained tension, moments of panic and violence are granted even more emotional force. I alternated between feeling tension, fear, and joy. When I left the theatre I was emotionally rattled, and continued to look around myself, through windows, past lights, as I had done while I watched the film. The cinematography was extremely effective.
  3. What issues does this film tackle? One of the more obvious themes that It Follows tackles is that of sexually transmitted disease. The deadly curse that haunts Jay is passed on after penetrative sex is completed for the man. No homosexual or non-penetrative sex is depicted, so this might be a specifically hetero affliction. The curse plagues the most recent person to have sex with the previously cursed person. I have heard it remarked by some that it can also be interpreted as PTSD from rape or sexual abuse. An unnamed, unseen thing haunting you, something incomprehensible to your loved ones, something that isolates you, that penetrates your every thought, and makes every space you inhabit unsafe. Others interpret it as the threat of adulthood, or mortality. The film’s young adults are hanging out at the end of summer, clinging to one another and their childhood pastimes of floating in pools and sleepovers. Parents are obscured or appear as violent apparitions, we are firmly in a world of youth and vulnerability. But, the threat of adulthood is forever looming, forever threatening to tear the kids apart, and all they can do is run and cling to one another. Adulthood slowly creeps up on everyone, no matter how fast you run, how far you drive, or how many people you sleep with.
  4. Was it fun? Oh man, this film was so fun. It is beautiful, well-paced, and is reminiscent of some of my favourite horror films including Cat People (1942), Halloween (1978), with a little bit of a Buffy (1997) or Scooby Doo (1969) mixed in for good measure. The nostalgia is not only in the production design and sound design, it’s in every element. I get the warm and fuzzies from the Cat People influenced pool confrontation as much as I get it from thinking about lazy summer days.
  5. Was it transformative? The film was not transformative, it did not change my worldview, but it does make me hopeful that a more thoughtful indie horror trend will emerge. Enough hack ‘em, slash ‘ems! Keep me guessing! Keep me fearful!

It Follows is a horror pleasure and I really recommend it. Pair it with The Shining (1980) to maintain that atmosphere and suspense.

- Andrea

Violence for Everyone - Kingsman The Secret Service

This week, I am featuring Andrea Ziedenberg again. Clink here to read her earlier post. We both watched Kingsman separately and we're just dying to review it. Here are her thoughts:

Kingsman (2015) invigorated me. After watching it I immediately wanted to watch it again and create a tumblr devoted to the character Gazelle (Sofia Boutella).

Directed by Matthew Vaughn and starring Taron Egerton as ‘Eggsy’ Unwin, Colin Firth as Harry Hart, Sophie Cookson as Roxy, Michael Caine as Arthur, Samuel L Jackson as Valentine, and the star, for me, was professional break-dancer Sofia Boutella as the knife-legged Gazelle.

Vaughn takes us through the spy movie motions but punches it up with giddy gore and winking asides.

  1. Where does this film take us? It takes us into a fantasy England, where humans are capable of amazing feats, super villains and aristocrats control the fate of the world, and heads explode in colourful puffs.
  2. How did this film make us feel? This film made me feel positively giddy, because of its well-coordinated violence and its silly humour. The kinetic action sequences are long and well designed. The best example is a Church massacre scored to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird. Colin Firth’s Hart slaughters a pack of racist bigots in a chaotic ballet of impaling crosses and gun shots. The camera swirls around the church with action taking place in the foreground, in the background, and everywhere in between. It is truly exhilarating. I really can’t emphasize how amazing it was to see cartoonish gore in a spy film. Gazelle, Valentine’s henchman, has razor sharp legs and she cuts a man in two with them. In two! Her fight sequences were a thing of beauty. I appreciated the violence the most, but the humour was just as entertaining. The humour pokes fun at spy movie tropes or turns them on their head. For instance, the villainous Valentine cannot handle seeing blood or violence, and a princess offers not a kiss, but anal sex to the hero when he saves the world. Cheeky.
  3. What issues does this film tackle? Some have criticized the film for being too right wing, for its criticism of government interference and portraying environmentalists as insane. But I am easy to please and can forgive it these sins because of its excellent action sequences. The film also takes a stab at class issues. Eggsy, coming from a working class background, with the sneakers and accent to match, versus the old world aristocracy of the Kingsman, personified by Michael Caine and Colin Firth. In the end, the working class background gives you street smarts and heart, and aristocracy gives you nice suits and cool gadgets. A marriage between the two seems to work out best. Hence, Eggsy becomes a suited up suave gentleman, but one who can think on his feet. Power still rests in the hands of the elite, but at least they have somewhat diversified their ranks. Another issue in the film is masculinity. I love that Eggsy is a more sensitive chap than your average super spy (he saves a puppy!) and he strikes up a mutually beneficial friendship with spy Roxy. My biggest bone to pick with the film was the fact that they did not give Roxy a Kingsman suit, especially since she wins the spot over Eggsy, and that they did not allow her to take part in the final violent showdown between Eggsy, Gazelle, and Valentine. My second biggest issue was the first scene where the Kingsman are supposed to kill a Muslim. It smacks off the white man’s burden and is just plain old fashioned racism to have these white knights saving the world from brown and black adversaries. In IMDB, he is listed as the first character and referred to as "terrorist." Come on Great Britain...
  4. Was it fun? Hells yes! This movie is fun from start to finish. Fun is the whole point of the film, it’s a rollercoaster ride for entertainment only.
  5. Was it transformative? Hells no. This film is just a popcorn flick. Maybe it was transformative in that it made me want to learn how to do breakdancing stunts like Gazelle! Or it could be argued that it was transformative to the spy genre, in that it gave us a gorier and more tongue in cheek iteration of the same old tropes. Maybe the next James Bond will be more a of romp and less of a slog?

Overall, the film was a hoot and I highly recommend it when you want some fun escapist fare. Perhaps pair it with a Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)! You won’t be disappointed!

- Andrea

Cinderella: Characters or Caricatures

I was enchanted last night at Cineplex with the new 2015 Cinderella. Let's not for a moment take this film too seriously. But Disney had a few tricks up its sleeve that I think are important to take down.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Lily James (plays Cinderella, known for role in Downton Abbey), Richard Madden (plays the prince, known as Rob Stark on GoT), Cate Blanchett (plays the stepmother), and Helena-Bonam Carter (plays fairy godmother).

Disney takes us on a journey through Cinderella and her mice companions with a few modern twists.

1. Where does this film take us? To a mystical enchanted world where mice understand little girls, Princes fall in love with chambermaids, and fairy godmothers turn lizards into chauffeurs. A world with depth and reasoning. We finally get to hear the side of the evil step mother and the side of the Prince. The aesthetic is enchanting, almost Tim Burton meets British romance. Perhaps too over the top for Jane Austen, but perfectly acceptable for this film.

2. How did this film make us feel? First, I left feeling happy. I literally hummed and waltzed out of the theatre. But then I realized something else as I was discussing it with a friend. Now, I'd like to talk about two key emotions: neutrality and frustration. There are three important mourning scenes for the three deaths in the film. A Disney film actually shows three characters dying. BUT, this film being of course and instrument of instruction as well as entertainment, teaches young children to have courage through the bad times and enjoy the good times as they come. Cinderella has her dad as comfort during her mother's early death and the mice for comfort while she mourns for her father alone. This is an important and strange emotion for young children and it is important to show strength and courage. Both the men and women in the movie are encouraged to cry and say "I love you." Therefore, Disney does away with its usual hyper-masculine figures like the Prince and introduces a more realistic and personable character. The Prince is even named Kit, not just "prince." While I felt a strong pull to comfort both Ella and Kit, I also knew they would overcome the death and move forward in life, carrying their important familiar education forward: have courage and be kind. My only slight let down is the way Cinderella confronts her Stepmother. I was hoping for more confrontation, not just a pardon at the end. It is as bad to over react in these situations as it is to under react, to say nothing and let the abuse continue. Not everyone can hold out and wait for prince charming to come cantering through the forest one day. Something to work on Disney?

3. There are two characters that were expanded upon which lead me to understand their worlds a lot better: Kit (Prince) and the Stepmother. Kit is a young apprentice with humour and a propensity to be a good ruling monarch. He is loyal to his father but stubborn in his ideals. He doesn't let class or position in life rule his feelings. All are equal, regardless of birth. This we can see in the final marriage proposal scene when Ella says, "If the shoe fits will you take me as I am? As a young country girl?" To which the Prince replies, "Will you take me as I am? An apprentice Monarch named Kit?" When Kit's father is dying in bed, Disney does not instruct the Prince to be strong and to save his tears. He let's them go freely, and lies on his dads chest like a child. I did not see this as emasculating or even childish. It was simply a display of strong love and emotions. This is important for Disney to break away from its usual male portrayals. And what did we learn about the stepmother? Well, she was once a young innocent beauty and in love. She was unlucky in the marriage with the birth of her half-wit daughters and the death of her husband. Her debt was insurmountable and she needed to re-marry again to save her family. In some ways, she has much courage. She risked her happiness to marry another man to keep the family afloat. Cinderella's presence was an all too shocking reminder of her earlier life and her inability to return to happiness. While we may still dislike her, we understand her actions and therefore understand Cinderella's easy pardon at the end. We are left to question, if this was Cinderella and her mother, would the mother not have done the same for Cinderella? Fought for her to win the heart of the prince to give CInderella a better life?

4. This film is full of fun and fewer surprises. The humour is a nice break from the cheesy romance tale and keeps us grounded in this mystical land. Helena-Bonam Carter plays an imperfect fairy godmother who seems to be a bit out of practice but lucks out anyways. This scene was entirely a wonderful surprise. The costuming and set design for the golden coach and lizard and duck drivers was very humorous. The one serious moment that actually was another delightful surprise was when Cinderella and the Prince meet for the first time in the woods. This was a greatly added piece of narrative that shapes the rest of the story. The Prince playfully declares she has interrupted his hunt, and she declares back, "What has that stag ever done to you." The Prince asks, "Are you friends with the stag?" She replies, "No, just an acquaintance. We met momentarily before. He looked me in my eyes and I saw him." The Prince ponders this with a smile, "It is the royal hunt, we always hunt a stag." Cinderella closes the conversation with a helpful tidbit of advice that pushes the Prince's narrative forward, "Just because you have always done so, does not mean you should be doing it at all." In this way, it is as if the once very limited caricatures in Disney have finally broken free and become full bodied characters. Disney is attempting to remodel its mode of communications to younger audiences by providing role models with depth and feeling and who embody non-gendered emotions.

5. A transformative experience? Don't make me giggle. Of course Cinderella transforms herself visually to attend the ball. But she does not change WHO she is inside. Her clothing and hair are mere accessory. We see this theme applied to the two step sisters, who look rather dashing, but remain immature little girls without any thought or wit. Therefore it is not the appearance of success that marks a person, but their actions and words. This is an important lesson for younger audiences growing up in a world riddled with consumerist fantasies. Unfortunately Cinderella still reaffirms that marriage is the only way OUT for Ella, which we know today is not the case. But we can take that with a grain of salt (okay maybe 100 grains of salt). In some ways we can think of this story at its baseline to be very modern: A country wench without name or fortune is destined to do housework her whole life. She is the embodied stay-at-home mother or even the butler. The Prince allows her to escape her toils. We cannot assume Ella forgets herself and becomes lazy being with the Prince. Her good habits and kind character transcend wealth and class. Her good behaviour landed her a prize, an escape from a life is horrible and meaningless to one with meaning and love. I feel like this plotline is riddled with cyclical issues that are trying to justify themselves through Cinderella's good character. BUT in many ways, Disney is trying to break free of its usual notions and to that I give it much credit.

Never mind what they call her, she asks us to love her for who she is. To be the best version of ourselves at all times. This is a great message for a rather cheesy romantic film. Bibbidy bobbidy BOO!

- Jenn

Widescreen Thriller: A Most Violent Year

Let us continue the tradition of using Ted Hope's five criteria when it comes to cinema: what five things do we want from cinema? This past week, I had the privilege to watch A Most Violent Year (2015), starring Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, and many others. Written and Directed by J. C. Chandor.

  1. Where did this film take me? To 1980s New York New York. This year is actually recorded to be the most violent year the state has yet to see. From the rich suburbs of the wealthy, to the dockside industrial slums of those battling the American dream. We are delivered the film through the CEO's vision. He is an immigrant chasing after the prolific American dream. His wife, from a rough NY neighbourhood with a notorious father, equally an outcast. Together, though, they are a powerful couple. Perhaps I can expand on this point and explain HOW J.C. Chandor took me back to this historical moment. Let us first talk about the first five minutes of the film as the credits are rolling. Perhaps one of the most interesting film introductions I have seen in a while. Delivered in a widescreen format, the footage feels stretched and condensed at the same time. However, you never miss a moment. The film begins with what we can assume is the protagonist. We see him running through a quiet suburban neighbourhood. The music is not inviting but it is also not unpleasant. It says, "WAIT, don't get caught up by the beautiful imagery. All is NOT well." The steadycam replicates the point-of-view of the runner, immediately pointing us to see what he sees, therefore indicating that the main perspective will be filtered through Abel. It is Abel Morales' (Oscar Isaac) story. The next character is introduced in a two shot sequence, first a medium wide shot and then a medium close up. This camera work tells us, "OKAY, don't forget this secondary character. He is indeed important." Back to the runner, he is now in an industrial landscape, headed towards a dockside. An oil barge offloads its product into a truck. Cut back to the runner. We understand he is somehow related to this action. His attire - sweatpants and a hoodie - do not disclose his position in the oil company just yet. He is still running. We as the audience ask if he is training for a marathon? Why run so long? Only after do we realize he is training himself to keep up with whatever is thrown across his path. All these actions takes place within the first five to ten minutes. We learn so much about the film because of the camera work and how it compliments the action. We get a sense of who is important and what the story is going to be about. It is brilliant.
  2. How did I feel during the film and after the film? There is an immediate quietness about the film that I am unable to explain. It was an uncomfortable quiet. The kind that has you waiting tensely for something to happen. The film never felt slow though, mostly because we understand the time frame of the story: thirty days. Thirty days to close the agreement on the land he purchased. Forty percent upfront and the remainder at the end of the thirty days. Each day is thus accounted for and keeps us and the characters on the same level. Therefore the stillness and unsureness are a combination of things. This film, in many ways, replicates that feeling in Steven Spielberg's Duel (TV special). Throughout the entire car and truck chase, viewers have the need and desire to see who the truck driver is. Not because we particularly care for him, but because we are purposely prevented from seeing him by the camera / director - thus creating desire. The death of the truck driver heightens the disavowal and leaves a burning disappointment - desire unfulfilled. Similarly, Abel spends thirty intense days trying to find out who is robbing his trucks and who tried to enter his house with a gun. He eventually chases one thief down. Abel asks him twice, "WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR?" This is a major thrilling moment and we the audience are sitting at the edge of our seats waiting to hear a name spoken. Then the disavowal takes place. The man replies, "I don't work for anyone." Abel is no closer to the truth and we feel his disappointment most profoundly. The evil lurking in the background is undetectable. It only exists through the radio broadcast system as an effect. The cause - le raison d'etre - lies out in the filmic world in a secret untouchable form. We are unsure what the purposes are, although we can surmise that it is most likely financially driven. The ending received a lot of negative attention apparently after the first few screenings. The composer was worried that people would disapprove of Abel's actions and write him off as a cold money hungry CEO. Yet, I felt the complete opposite. I felt proud to have been on his side. I will expand further down. 
  3. What issues were discussed and how? Issues of immigration, generation, family, and business blended together and rose up in contrast to the american dream. In this dystopia the action unfolds and the characters have to carve their name in stone with their fingernails. There are four stories playing simultaneously: Abel's quest for dominance in the oil industry, Anna's fierce and loyal passion to see her husband succeed by any means necessary, Julian's hungry desire to one day be Abel, and Lawrence's tired and never ending bureaucratic desk job. Abel has to secure his deal with a Jewish family that owns a prime piece of property on the waterfront. Old money sells their family owned site to new money - to a self made man. Two generations of immigrants are immediately introduced.  The third generation comes in the form of Abel's antagonist: Julian. While Abel adopts American culture, Julian fights in limbo - Abel asks him several times to speak in English. Julian is in many ways a younger version of Abel. The difference lies in the paths each choose. Abel's philosophy about taking the path that is MOST right stands in stark contrast to that of Julian's fearful, cowardly approach. Guns are seen as cowards' weapons. Abel refuses to let his workers arm themselves for fear it will intensify the problem even further. Julian's fear backfires when he is unable to own up to his actions. His American dream is unsustainable. We can even draw quick similarities with the characters in Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing (1989). Abel is like Mookie. Julian is like Pino. Sometimes the path that is most right seems at first morally tainted. Yet Mookie saved Sal's life by distracting the angry crowd with destroying his pizza joint instead. Abel is unable to save Julian, but promises to care for his family. His success, and we are never given any reason to doubt the sincerity of Abel's character, is attributed to his choice of taking "the path that is most right."
  4. Surprises? DUH. Jessica Chastain's character, Anna. She is a very complicated character. How many complicated female characters have we seen recently at the box office? She is the gangster her husband refuses to be. She is the hard shell that is able to kill the deer her husband cannot. She steals from him and then returns the money in order to save the family. She is the book keeper. Yet, she is never given credit for her work. It is clear Abel loves his wife and family. It is clear he has strict moral beliefs and follows them as much as possible. Yet, when does he ever truly acknowledge his wife's help? He forgives her time and time again for her erratic behaviour. He coaches her to take the right course and to dispel her gangster tendencies. She works for him and takes care of the family. We see a nanny only once acting as a babysitter, indicating her true devotion to her children. She attends all the social functions with her husband as a strong supporter. She risks threatening a cop who has interrupted her 10-year old birthday party, "my husband is not who you think he is. He is an honest man. If you disrespect him, he will make it his mission to ruin your life. And this was very disrespectful." She is the chilling - fiery ego Abel refuses to be. They compliment each other perfectly. She says what he is thinking and she does what he wishes he could do. Together they are an unstoppable force.
  5. The transformative experience: who is transformed in the end? As an audience member, I believe I felt the most affected by the experiences on screen. I felt the elation of Abel's victory, the fiery passion behind Anna's success in managing her husband's affairs, and the silence of Julian's death and world. During the post production phase, the composer was worried that people would walk away thinking that Abel is a cold hearted money hungry CEO. He cared little for Julian's death, saving the hole in his oil barrel first. The song at the end is supposed to guide the audience emotionally to steer clear from these complicated feelings. I did not think of Abel as anything other than an honest and hard working man. Abel's ability to pay off the remainder of the property value is in large due to how his company behaves for thirty days and how they conduct themselves during all the robberies and violence. The stress of losing everything he had worked hard for was apparent every day. How can you argue with that level of simplicity? Yet, as a CEO with many employees, he makes time to visit Julian in hospital and pay for his expenses. He makes time to visit the new trainees. He takes time to make sure anyone who got hurt on his clock was taken care of. The most shocking scene is when his youngest daughter discovers the gun and cocks it playfully. Anna has to slowly approach and take it out of her hand. Abel takes in the seriousness of the situation: it is one thing to hurt his employees and another to threaten his family. He faces his competitors fiercely but fairly, he asks for what is his and no more, "you owe me $213,000." Abel presupposes Mookie's charisma and courage, and always does the right thing.

In conclusion, A Most Violent Year was an awe inspiring experience. Coupled with an amazing cast, a superb sound score, and the widescreen aspect ratio, I highly recommend viewing this artwork in cinema before it passes away.

- Jenn

An Age of Web Series

STORY A

A year ago, I discovered The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. After several intense weeks of constant youtube watching, the show was suddenly over and I wanted more. I researched and came across the real production company behind this web series: Pemberly Digital. Okay so maybe I was attracted initially to the Pride and Prejudice reference, but upon further inquiry, I realized that this was a special production house that modernized nineteenth century literary classics into modern and accessible stories. 

I have since followed the company through its iterations of Emma Approved (Emma, Jane Austen) and Frankenstein MD (Frankenstein, Mary Shelly).

Yesterday I saw a new series and I could not contain my pleasure...

STORY B - Preface / explanation of Story A ending

Also a year ago, in a quaint pub downtown Toronto, guest blogger Andrea and myself met two wonderful people: Sarah Shelson and Wil Noack.

At the time, they had just received word from an independent funding source that their web series called March Family Letters won. They could not contain their smiles all night and the mood was perfectly contagious. 

They patiently answered all my questions in regards to how they went about finding funding to the production process itself.

I saw their pilot and enjoyed the modern adaptation of The Little Women.

STORY C - how A and B come together in harmony

What to my wonderful eyes should I see last night, but The March Family Letters  listed as a production at Pemberly Digital. Congratulations to the entire team involved with The March Family Letters, but mostly to Wil and Sarah. Your passion and drive and hard work have paid off enormously.

I can't wait to sink my teeth into all the episodes this weekend and get caught up with a wonderful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's timeless novel. 

- Jenn

What do WE want from cinema: Inherent Vice

I had a really unique movie going experience last week. At 9:20pm on a Tuesday night, I trekked alone to Cineplex Odeon Varsity Theatres at 55 Bloor Street, Toronto, for a VIP screening of Inherent Vice (2015). Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, adapted by Thomas Pynchon's novel, this is by far one of the most interesting films I have got to see this year.

Before I go into my analysis, though, I came across this intriguing and perfectly applicable article from the website Hope in Film: The Five Crucial Things We Want From Movies. Written by Ted Hope, this article suggests the following list.

  1. Take me somewhere I have never been
  2. Make me feel
  3. Help me understand this issue / world a little better
  4. Deliver fun and surprises
  5. A transformative experience

With this as our backbone, let us now take a look at Inherent Vice through these five filters / criteria.

  1. Inherent Vice takes place in south California during the transition between the 60s and 70s. On the outset, this town seems to have three kinds of people: hippies, gangsters, and law-enforcers. However, by mid movie, the types have become so muddled that by the end each character is neither him nor herself and are a mish-mash of everyone. A bit like The Beatles song I am the Walrus "I am he as you are he and you are me and we are all together." Yet no one in the film is together. Relationships are never whole, and people are as much present off screen as they are on screen, making the loose episodic plot structure more hippie-ish, if you will. 
  2. WOW. How did I feel? Where do I begin? First, let's talk about the voiceover narration. Can we even call it ironic? It is a bit Godardian in the best way, calling attention to the story's realities as unrealities. The pumping action of private investigator Doc Sportello is highly undercut by the mellow female voice, taking your heartbeat down four notches into a normal rhythmic speed. She calls attention to the fading past, the psychedelic 60s slowly evaporating. All that California was is embodied in Doc. And he is hated every moment for it. He is the dinosaur of the south. A T-rex hunting for the truth of the golden fang. What feelings can we say the film conveys? There is this uncomfortable sense of unknowingness - a paranoia that slowly seeps into your bones and makes you fidget in your seat. There is repetition, creating a cyclical feeling that adds to the claustrophobic environment. If you were asked to loosely sketch Doc's world, could you do it? Do we know where all the puzzle pieces fit? I felt hazie leaving the theatre, as if a smokey cloud had settled around me head. A sudden second-high. There was also humour - in an unchecked and unbalanced way. We laughed without restraint but not because we were set up to laugh or forced to. It felt more real somehow.
  3. I had not read Thomas Pynchon's novel before watching the film in theatre, and believe this might have filled in any loose gaps my brain is still trying to solve. I do not know much about the early 70s to justify the films explanation. Yet, taking it for what it is and disregarding (momentarily) its time in history, what did I take away? What statement is the film making - and even if it is NOT making a statement, that is in itself a statement - and how is it resolved? I think Doc justifies his good character at the end. He is able to reunite a family together and saves a father (Owen Wilson) from being further involved in a network of cocaine dealers. Sure the family is unromantic in the best way - and the parents are the least prototypic of their kind - but there is a sense of charm seeing the two hug at the end. The set, setting, costumes, and soundtrack created a quintessential aura, what I would think would be an accurate 70s mise-en-scene for this film. 
  4. The greatest surprise was the dialogue. The dialogue between characters differs greatly: legal and proper jargon from his girlfriend downtown (Reese Witherspoon), the slow drawl of his drug friend pretending to be dead (Owen Wilson), and the strange and often perverted comments from Lieutenant Bigfoot (Josh Brolin). Actions often contradict the characters verbal intent. Bigfoot angrily refers to Doc as the hippie, yet storms his house at the end of the film and eats a lot of weed sitting out on the table. Deputy Penny Kimball, a serious woman of the law, is caught smoking weed with Doc and having a jolly good time. The humour is dry and the banter delivered in a hyper serious manner to the point of being at the cusp of hilarious: "woohoo, look at the greedy little hippie." "Bring a  bar of soap and you can clean my feet tonight." "Ew. I can bring you pizza though." "There is a swastika symbol on that man's face." "No there isn't. That is an ancient Hindu symbol meaning ALL IS WELL." Do these characters know they are funny or do they take themselves seriously? 
  5. Transformative: Ted suggests that this can be for either the viewers or the characters on screen. Still unsure as to how Doc is feeling - probably rather groovy for saving the day (?) - I definitely felt transformed. My opinion about romance, life, beach-house living, the 70s, and the radical 60s has definitely been intensified and caught my interest. This film told the story in a whole new way. The experience was unique and something I am sure to never feel again. Even when I go see the film for a second time, I am sure to feel slightly different. I think in an era when originality is rare and films have become almost colloquial communication tools, it is definitely hard to find that new angle. As my favourite dead poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, commented on in his poem "Kubla Khan," the public will scorn this type of artistic creation. They will stomp and spit and refuse entry into their narrow perspective. Bret Easton Ellis shares this perspective in his article Novelist and Screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis Talks Paul Anderson's Inherent Vice.

"Anderson’s epic vision of Southern California in movie after movie is one of modern cinema’s key accomplishments — the scope is a marvel. But the audience for Inherent Vice is not going to be rapturously discussing it this Christmas — the harsh words I heard behind me as I left the screening last week have been echoed all over the place when I ask people who have seen it what they thought, and the pre-release take-down of it around L.A. is surprising to me [...]" - Bret Easton Ellis

I understand where this assumption is coming from and find it so sad. I suppose everyone is entitled to their opinions - and there are always going to be those films that are landmarks and only become so in a new generation of understanding - and hopefully open-mindedness. I say HOORAH for Anderson and all the performances in the film. A job well done. A film highly original and intriguing. Thank you for making my Tuesday night so groovy!

- Jenn

Toronto's Film Resources

I'm a film tourist. I'll be the first to admit it. I'm scared to take the plunge and make my own film. However I am utterly engrossed in film culture. I read the magazines, I follow the twitters and I join the clubs. Film culture can be enjoyed by filmmakers and film lovers alike. They are great avenues for making new friends, networking, and discovering new work that you may enjoy. I'm lucky to live in Toronto which is home to a flourishing film culture.

Here are some of my top 5 film communities and resource providers in the T dot!

  1. TIFF | Toronto International FIlm Festival

Let's start with the most well-known. TIFF is much more than just a glamorous festival, it is a Film Reference Library, an exhibition of the creme-de-la-creme of international cinema, a champion of Canadian features and shorts, a host to innovative exhibitions and rife with programming for adults and children alike. Becoming a member at TIFF gives you a discount on screenings and early access to TIFF tickets. The actual festival has a great variety of films and events, from red carpet Hollywood premieres to a Canadian shorts program.

      2.   WIFT - T | Women in Film and Television - Toronto

I love WIFT-T. Don't let the name scare you boys, men can join as an associate member. WIFT-T offers a lot of programming, development and mentorship opportunities that are organized by experienced cohorts. Not only do they have formal mentorships, like the Ubisoft Toronto Producer Mentorship, they also encourage mentorship between members in their member zone. I love the focus on women, of building skillsets and making friends!

      3.   MUFF society | Monthly Underground Female Film Society

MUFF is in its formative period. The Monthly Underground Female Film Society, run by the charismatic Siârn Melton, focuses on female film community, films by women, and films about women. Currently it's a fun film screening hosted by the Royal where you can meet like-minded people and participate in photo booths and good fun, but it will likely grow soon!

      4.   LIFT | Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto

LIFT is a fantastic nonprofit, offering affordable courses, gear rental, panels and script reading sessions for members. Courses range from using a bolex to doing your income tax. Many events are free, including the Screenwriter's Circle and the Lift Out Loud screenplay reading series, which anyone can attend. LIFT is great for community building and a great gear resources. Go LIFT!

       5.   Hot Docs

Hot Docs is North America's largest documentary festival. For professionals, it has the Hot Docs Forum, which has pre-selected candidates pitch their projects to major broadcasters and distributors from all over the world, conferences regarding co-productions, kickstarter sessions, and Rent-an-Expert Meetings. For the casual film lover it provides a great volunteering opportunity and the chance to see remarkable documentaries from around the world!

I hope you found something useful and interesting to you within this list! Join! Meet! Have fun!

Until next time,

Andrea 

TECH-nically a Women - Fully a Person

Two experiences in the last two weeks that have changed my perspective

After having watched The Hundred Foot Journey (Lasse Hallström, 2014), I picked up the novel and whipped through it in under a week. Quick plot: a family from Indian emigrates to a small country town in France. The family opens up a restaurant, attracting much attention from a local high top restaurant owner, Madame Mallory. She takes the main character, Hassan, under her wing and he ends up in Paris with his own 3-michelin star restaurant. My favourite part about the story came at the very end, when the michelin-inspection committee calls Hassan to award him his third star. The critic says, "you are the first foreign chef in the city to ever win a third star." Quite a backhanded compliment.

Similar to this experience, I read an article in LinkedIn called "Recruiting, and Retaining Women in Tech." A good brief article about why women feel unwelcome in tech related careers,

"If your company is mostly male, you will have to work extra hard to create a women-friendly culture, where women don't feel they are different" - Caterina Fake (CEO, Findery).

The article ends with a call to action: 

"Don't just sit and wait for women to apply for jobs. Make sure your company is friendly to women. Let it be known that you are interested in recruiting and retaining women. Build your own pipeline for applicants."

My immediate reaction was positive. Of course women (like men) want to feel comfortable and safe entering a work environment. And let's be honest, certain jobs have a reputation of being ill-suited for women. Upon further consideration, however, I also realized that it might potentially be backhanded. Like our compliment above. What if you found out after being hired at the workplace of your dreams that you were considered there, not solely based on skills, but because you were a woman? How do you feel?

WHY

Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant write a column called Women at Work in the Sunday TIMES. This past week, they explored "Why Women Stay Quiet" in workplace environments. They open with an example of an incident I believe we have all been through:

"Almost every time [women] started to speak, they were interrupted or shot down before finishing their pitch. When one had a good idea, a male writer would jump in and run with it before she could complete her thought." - [reported by Glenn Mazzara]

Sound familiar? 

Women of Influence, Magazine

I attended an extremely inspiring and helpful talk by Carolyn Lawrence, President & CEO of Women of Influence. She talked about how men and women learn differently, but that both genders are key ingredients for a company's success. It is figuring out how to use each other's best qualities / assets that is the challenge. Once this hurdle is overcome, however, success follows.

I walked away with two feelings. The first is, no longer will I remain quiet. If I have ideas, I will share. Later that week I did just that. And what happened? I was immediately interrupted. However, unlike the ladies above, I took matters into my own hands. I stopped that male speaker right away and politely said, "I am sorry, I was not finished my thought."

What happened next?

They were not offended and actually stopped talking. I was able to finish my thought and even though they shot it down shortly after, I had at least commanded the attention of the table for that split second without endangering myself as being called rude.

 

The second lesson I learned is to ACTUALLY walk away. She said that if your situation has reached a point where you feel unhappy, then leave. So simple. The grass is always greener on the other side.

Concerning Balancing Gender Diversity in the Technical Sectors

OKAY. So. How do we balance these ideas? How do we address the need to have gender equality in the technical sector without calling attention to gender itself?

Women as persons. That is my balancing solution.

Another article was brought to my attention at a meeting with MUFFS (Monthly Underground Female Film Society, Toronto) this past weekend: "Ten Surprising Movies Directed by Women". 

First off: Dear writer who is indeed a woman, why is this surprising at all? Did these films possess an overall male-aesthetic and male-perspective? What is the surprise: the fact that these films are successful? The fact that these films won awards?

"Not only did the film get nominated for 4 Canadian Screen Awards, and 3 Oscars, it was directed by a woman (whereupon multiple exclamation points appear - profusely overused - for an exaggerated effect)."

No more.

Support for women locally

To me it is so simple. People are people. Women are people. Therefore, let's celebrate human achievement - irrespective of gender. His-story is made up of Her-story too.

*Excuse my lack here at this moment of mentioning RACE or SEXUALITY or CULTURE. These are three completely different (yet interrelated) topics to tackle for a different week.

What can you do? Join a club. Join a society. Volunteer. Blog. Listen. Read. Educate yourself. Empower the people around you. Use language as a positive inducer versus as a Debbie Downer.

I helped volunteer at a really cool event this past November called Women Who Rock - Auction for Action. A collection of top mining CEOs gathered that evening on stage and were auctioned off to women in the mining industry for a one-on-one counselling session (career advice and young entrepreneurs). All proceeds ($6,000) were raised for the Alma Fund, which financially supports women in South America.

Support for women internationally

I recently signed a petition with Global Fund for Women concerning "ending the gender technology gap." This initiative supports international women by making available all areas of technology / science / development to both genders in an equal environment.

To conclude my analysis, there is definitely a move towards awareness in the workspace concerning the lack of women in the technical sectors or even the absence of female contribution or shared opinion. Please share some articles you found intriguing and continue the talk moving forward.

People as people,

- Jenn

BLOG CONTRIBUTORS

Charlotte Ficek

Happy New Year 2015

What an amazing year 2014 was. Especially when it came to film. I saw the most diverse group of films this year:

  1. Her (Spike Jones)
  2. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
  3. The Lego Movie (Phil Lord, Christopher Miller)
  4. An Eye for Beauty (Denys Arcand, TIFF screening)
  5. Madame Bovary (Sophie Barthes)
  6. Girlhood (Céline Sciamma, TIFF screening)
  7. The F Word (special TIFF screening)
  8. Gone Girl (David Fincher)
  9. Top Five (Chris Rock)
  10. Interstellar (Christopher Nolan)
  11. Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum)

Other films I want to catch up on such as Dear White People, Pride, Only Lovers Left Alive, and The Lunchbox are thankfully playing at local Toronto indie theatres.

What ceases to amaze me is how easy it is to become wrapped up in these fictional worlds for two hours. How easy it is to be that beauty on screen, the astronaut going to space, the femme fatale, the genius, and the witty comedian. Not only do the stories capture my interests but the art and craft of creating the films: the editing, the special effects, the musical compositions, the cinematography and costume departments.

If you are looking to get caught up on some much needed popcorn and relaxing time, here are my top choices based on the following criteria:

Comedy

Top Five is an immensely intelligent film, intermixing comedic skits with serious conversation centered around race and film. The film opens with a complex and intriguing suggestion: the main character states that all films are political - suggesting all films either explicitly or implicitly argue for a certain way of life. Something to think about as you laugh and ponder you way through this film.

Thriller and suspense

Gone Girl fulfilled my much needed Hitchcockian need for a thriller film this past year. Taking what appears to be an idyllic situation (a marriage full of love and bliss) and twisting the heck out of it until we are left feeling uncomfortable, uneasy, and frankly mystified. If you are interested in a plot that centres on the need for control between a husband and his strong femme fatale wife, this is for you. Warning, this film does have explicit graphic scenes.

Love

The F Word premiered at TIFF in 2013 and was released in Canada and the States (As What If). What a film packed with witty dialogue, real life situations (no seriously I know all those places in Toronto) and likeable characters. Dear Elan Mastai, thank you for such BRILLIANT original content. Though spun from a short theatrical staged production, Elan Mastai spent ten years producing this masterpiece and I couldn't be more thrilled that it ended up being filmed in Toronto, showcasing it in all its beauty. There is a little something for everyone in this film. And I don't say that to mean it is utilitarian - it is definitely indie and very niche, but there is something universal about the characters that makes you ponder - "wow, I've done that before." Daniel Radcliffe is awesome and Zoe Kazan is magical. From live projection mapping, to Fool's Gold, to trips to Amsterdam, this film is one in a million.

Kid friendly and secretly for adults too 

The Lego Movie. Need I say anything more? Who doesn't enjoy playing with lego? Now you can sit for an hour and be immersed into a fun packed world of lego characters with a fun twist at the end that will have your hands twitching and aching to play with those long forgotten childhood toys.

Quirky in the best way 

I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel twice in theatres and officially have my very own copy on DVD. A joyous tale within a tale within a tale... full of intricate characters, your typical and lovable Wes Anderson flair, and emotional conflicts that are resolved most bizarrely. Just watch it. Seriously.

Une Film Canadienne

one of my favourite parts about TIFF is being able to access all the great Canadian films that I am otherwise limited to throughout the year. I got to see An Eye for Beauty at TIFF and Denys Arcand, himself, came out on stage for a Q & A afterwards. I was so awestruck by the beauty of the film - so deeply involved in the characters and their lives. I felt the truth of the images and reality of their situations. All of it rendered in an artistically beautiful way with stunning scenery, interesting and modern architecture, and suave cinematography. We are so lucky to have such talent here in our own backyards.

Best foreign film

If you have the chance, go see Girlhood. Not only did it have the best soundtrack in 2014, the actors were raw, the story was raw, and everything about the film was (can you guess?) raw. I was sent for an emotional rollercoaster, and no, this one doesn't end in Disney World. But it really gives you a breakdown of what a girl goes through as a teenager in suburban areas. Did I mention how amazing the soundtrack was?

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this past year in theatres and make some new suggestions for all us hungry cineastes in the world!

Looking forward to seeing what is in store this coming year.

- Jenn