Dec 7, 2020
What have the Winnipeg Film Group staff been watching while in Lockdown 2.0? Quite a bit! Here are a few of our suggestions on what to watch.
If you would like to continue to support us during this time, please check out what’s playing in our new Cinematheque at Home on demand service. There are several other ways you can do so such as making a donation, renewing your membership or purchasing other WFG merch, including our new Cinematheque toques and mugs!
Ryan Steel, Cinematheque Box Office & Projection:
I’ve been taking a lot of comfort in watching movies the past few weeks. My favourites have been: The Wizard, Heaven Knows What, Daddy Longlegs, Blissfully Yours, Bubble, Boys State, and the TV show How To With John Wilson. Hope you are all doing well.
Tavis Putnam, Cinematheque Box Office:
I have actually been catching up on a lot of old Winnipeg Film Group stuff lately, and have now finally seen most of the classic WFG shorts, including Springtime in Greenland, The Dead Grandmother, and Hydro Levesque.
In terms of non-Film Group stuff, I’ve been obsessing over HBO’s new show How To With John Wilson, a video-essay-documentary series produced by Nathan Fielder, and featuring some real life scenarios that rival even Nathan For You’s absurdity, including (without giving too much away): an international conference on the Mandela Effect; a meeting of angry New York soccer referees; and an anti-circumcision activist. Human nature is fascinating!
David Knipe, Cinematheque Manager of Operations and Special Programming:
I thought that I might get a little burned out from watching stuff at home during this second lockdown, but it seems I’ve actually kept up a steady diet of films. It’s so easy to turn to familiar, comforting films during this highly stressful time, especially with the holidays coming up as I often return to some of my nostalgic favourites in December, so I’ve been challenging myself to keep watching new stuff, mostly as research for Gimme Some Truth documentary festival programming.
In the last month, some real documentary highlights have been: Mayor, a funny and intelligent portrait of making the most out of an absurd and difficult situation; Truth or Consequences, a fine piece of ‘speculative docufiction’ featuring strangely beautiful images and provocative challenges to the assumptions we hold about people; The Forbidden Reel, an incredible feat of editing in its telling of the history of Afghan film and an essential archive in-and-of-itself; Boys State, a supercharged look into the mechanisms of American politics as played out amongst a group of hormone-fueled teenage boys looking to make their mark on the world, which coincidentally made a perfect pairing with an episode of CNN’s This Is Life about a wilderness camp that endeavors to help adolescent boys make a thoughtful transition into adulthood; and No Ordinary Man, the inspiring story of trans Jazz performer Billy Tipton, cleverly told through meta techniques and moving interviews with trans men.
I’ve also been trying to keep up with the staggering output of programming that the Criterion Channel offers monthly. After programming Beau Travail at Cinematheque, I was thrilled to take in some of the Channel’s Claire Denis retrospective, catching up on some of her work that I’ve been dying to see, including her masterful first feature Chocolat. You really can’t go wrong with any of the films in that program.
A few other streaming service selections that I can suggest are: Siao Yu (MUBI), The-Forty-Year-Old Version (Netflix), Old Boyfriends and Union Depot (Criterion Channel), and The Wolf of Snow Hollow (Amazon Prime).
Of course, these are in addition to the many wonderful films we have on offer through our Cinematheque at Home virtual cinema. We miss being able to talk with all of you after a film in the lobby and are looking at ways to re-create that shared experience online. Stay tuned and stay safe!
Stephanie Poruchnyk-Butler, Distribution Coordinator:
Over the past few months, as the weather cools and my tiny apartment oven greets a never-ending parade of lasagnas, crispy roast potatoes and bread puddings, my isolation watches have turned to comfort classics. I’ve rewatched favourites like the timeless Technicolor kaleidoscope that is The Wizard of Oz, and the iconic satirical rom-com, But I’m a Cheerleader. The eight-year-old in me jumped for joy seeing Lindsay Lohan rock out in Freaky Friday (2003) and revisiting musical theatre memories via Little Shop of Horrors (1986). My roommate and I even carved out a week to make nightly vodka sodas and rewatch the chaotic, gleeful and unapologetically queer eighth season of MTV’s Are You The One? If, like myself, you love reality television and maybe want to start using phrases like “fraud behaviour, cornball spirits” on the daily, you better stream it!
It’s not all familiar favourites around here. Like many other moody queers, I dove headfirst into the massively popular mini-series, The Queen’s Gambit! I also got to catch up on new-ish releases like Shirley and Swallow. Of course, nothing screams Code Red isolation vibes like the beauty, desire and restraint of Wong Kar-wai’s In The Mood For Love or Todd Haynes’ Carol, which have been on my mind all week. Hope you’re staying safe and enjoying great films, whether from your couch, bed or bath. Take care & happy watching!
Dylan Baillie, Production Centre Technical and Equipment Manager:
This recent lockdown has opened up more time for me to watch movies at home than ever. Here are some titles I’ve enjoyed putting on in the past while.
All the Gods in the Sky – France (2018): This film is dripping with dark and oppressive atmosphere right from the opening moments. This tone is unrelenting in the best way possible, with outstanding cinematography adding extra style to every scene. Brings to mind the best aspects of I Stand Alone.
Moulin Rouge! – Australia (2001): A jaw-dropping symphony of images, music and the language of love. Worth watching for the breakneck editing speed alone, this movie brings joy to my heart in ways I didn’t realize were still possible. If you haven’t seen it, watch it.
The Flight of the Phoenix – U.S. (1965): A classic film starring Jimmy Stewart about overcoming impossible odds. This movie has an exciting cast, great direction and a plot full of twists and turns. I find movies like this a much needed break from modern reality – thank you movies from the 60s for letting me jump into such an interesting and different time.
Coherence – U.S. (2013): This incredibly low-budget sci-fi/thriller/mystery seemed to just come out of nowhere. This movie deals with paradoxes, doppelgangers, and reality getting messed up in lots of cool ways. Every time I see it I notice something new, thanks to the very well written (and complex) script. Think Primer with even less money.
Burning – South Korea (2018): We showed this film at the Cinematheque when it came out, and I saw it then. I was compelled to watch it again recently – the themes of loneliness, isolation and human connection that are amplified by today’s pandemic are very thoughtfully explored in this film. This film puts the viewer in a sort of trance, transporting one to very melancholy places, and allows you to reflect on those feelings within yourself.
Greg Klymkiw, Executive Director:
I always have my television set to Turner Classic Movies (TCM) so that when I turn the TVon, TCM is the first thing that comes up. Usually whatever is on is fine by me. Last weekend my TV turned on just as George Stevens’s great 1956 epic Giant was about to air. I’ve seen this movie more times than I can count and yet I couldn’t stop watching. Set against the backdrop of the big sky of Texas oilfields and starring Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor, this is one of the grandest melodramas ever made. In spite of the soap-operatic qualities, it’s a film that deals with many social justice issues – most notably post-war ennui and racism. This was the last film that starred the iconic James Dean (just prior to the tragic car accident that killed him) in the role of Jett Rink, an oil baron and hotelier who comes from humble roots. At first he’s irascibly charming and seemingly kind, but as the story progresses his true colours are exposed as a mean-spirited, ignorant racist. For a star of Dean’s magnitude to take on such a role is something most contemporary stars would never consider so early on in their careers, but choose it he did. His comeuppance is a sight to behold and completely self-directed due to the character’s ignorance, self-absorption and innate corruption. The film also has the unforgettable, seemingly endless brawl between Rock Hudson and a racist restaurant owner. As well, Gant features the major movie debut of Dennis Hopper playing a quiet, sensitive young man – a far cry from the over-the-top performances from him that we’ve come to know and love. I also recently received a shipment of new Criterion Collection Blu-Rays that I’m excited about diving into: The astonishing “Essential Fellini” box set that includes remastered copies of all his classics; and the Criterion Bong Joon-ho Parasite, a two-disc set that includes the black and white version of the film.
Karen Remoto, Production Department and Training Coordinator:
What have I been watching the last couple of months? Alot. Alot, alot. I underestimated how many films, TV shows, concerts and webinars/panels I’ve seen or attended since this pandemic started. During the first round, my roommates and I started doing a weekly dinner and movie where we had a hand at cooking meals. Whether it was beet soup with meatballs, cajun shrimp stew or…. ordering from our local pizzeria, we took turns choosing a movie. We watched films like: The Neverending Story (1984), Legend (1985) and Roadkill (1989). By the time we hit Code Red, we ordered Dim Sum from Noodle Express, Rosemary Manitoba Bison from Feast Cafe or Saffron Rice with Chicken from Tehran Cafe and watched films like Kedi (2016), Knives Out (2019) and The Happiest Season (2020).
Despite my busy schedule, the films I watched by myself were: The Kindergarten Teacher (2018), Tampopo (1985- hilarious!), No Ordinary Man (2020), The Arch (1968), Nationalité Immigré (1976), American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs (2013) and Rocks (2020- amazing!) For TV, I binged: Giri/Haji, I May Destroy You (whatever Micaela writes- I’ll always watch), Midnight Gospel and Trickster (love!) Lastly, my friends and I chose Sunday evening to watch Power Rangers (2017), Cam (2018), Lingua Franca (2020), Hotel Transylvania (2018) and Straight Up (2020). Hope everyone is taking the time to stay cozy, go for walks to get that Vitamin D, do art for art’s sake and taking care of themselves!
Dave Barber, Cinematheque Senior Programmer:
I recently re- watched The Whole Wide World by Dan Ireland set in 1933 – a little known, beautiful love story between Depression era pulp writer Robert E. Howard (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Texas school teacher Novalyne Price Ellis played by Rene Zellwegger. This is probably one of Rene Zellwegger’s best early performances based on the memoirs of Novalyne Price Ellis, One Who Walked Alone. Director Dan Ireland began his career in 1976 by co-founding (with Darryl Macdonald) and running the Seattle International Film Festival from 1975-1986.
I also took another look at The Mayor of Sunset Strip by George Hickenlooper – This is one of my favourite documentaries about the obsession of celebrity focusing on an LA disk jockey named Rodney Bingenheimer who knew everybody but didn’t know himself – A brilliant film. One of my favourite new films in recent memory is Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland which I watched online from 2020 TIFF. This is her second feature film after the 2017 film The Rider. Based on the non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder, the film features Frances McDormand as a woman who leaves her small town to travel the American Midwest in search of work and a home and meets travelling nomads along the way. Deceptively simple it features a very subtle, poignant performance by Frances McDormand and character actor David Strathairn who often used to be featured in the films of John Sayles. On the night table: On The Bright Side of Down by Grant Guy, Hinterland Remixed by Andrew Burke and I just finished reading a biography of film music composer Bernard Herrmann, A Heart at Fire’s Centre – Widely regarded as one of the greatest film composers – Hermann’s temper alienated a lot of people and lost him work but just remember this is the person who composed the scores for Hitchcock classics Psycho, Vertigo and North by Northwest as well as Citizen Kane and Taxi Driver; so a great track record.
Jaimz Asmundson, Cinematheque Programming Director:
Greetings from isolation, everyone! Lately I’ve been feeling much like I did 27-months-ago, way, way, way back in March/April or this year when this all started: spending every day at home in my cozy nerd cove, watching movies, working on music, and actually eager for special event livestreams and zoom hangouts with friends. Over the summer I feel like a lot of us were suffering from zoom-fatigue and trying our best to do anything but interacting with the word through our screens, but now it’s something I strangely crave… even after spending the entire day working on the computer.
For the last while, I’ve been trying to figure out a perfect way to continue my semi-regular VHS movie night with friends and finally mastered a seamless method to share my fuzzy-picture slabs over the world wide web. We’ll definitely be adapting this for a future edition of Cream of the Crap. Speaking of which, I had a great time hanging out with the COTC crew and yacking about Action USA, my favourite over-the-top piece of high-octane filmmaking directed by Hollywood stuntman John Stewart – who we were also able to snag for a lengthy Q&A to answer all of my pressing Action USA questions. Burning questions such as “did you actually have to shoot all of Cameron Mitchell’s scenes at his own house because he was too drunk to leave?” All that and many more answers are available in our Cream of the Crap presents: Action USA – available to rent on Cinematheque at Home until December 26.
Otherwise I’ve been keeping a pretty hefty diet of new films and catching up with my watchlist. And I’ve managed to crack 4,000 films watched on letterboxd – which I’ve been avidly using to keep track of my viewing habits so that my brain has more room for Star Wars Episode 1 trivia.
One of the films that continues to stick with me is Remi Weekes’ His House – about a young refugee couple who, after fleeing from war-torn South Sudan, are struggling to adjust to a new life in small-town England. Through the lens of horror, this incredibly poignant film explores the experience of those seeking asylum and carrying the weight of regret, past-trauma, and the loved ones lost during their journey, and how they are haunted by the ghosts of their decisions. Surprising to me were also the parallels to the folktales of my Icelandic ancestors, who immigrated to Canada and apparently were accompanied by “the followers” (or fylgja) – the ghosts of their friends and relatives that have followed them through life.
I was also very excited to check out a few films during the brief fleeting window that theatres were able to open again. Some highlights were Brandon Cronenberg’s terrifying techno-thriller Possessor, the new 3D restoration of William Cameron Menzies’ The Maze – which amusingly reminded me of SCTV’s Monster Chiller Horror Theatre, and a fun-revisit to the original Friday the 13th which I last saw at the much-too-young age of 6! I’ve definitely been watching many other things beside horror, but I seem to be stuck in my favourite month of the year! If 2020 is the year that never ends, why can’t we just extend spooky October for just a few more months?
But in all seriousness, I’ve been aching for in-person cinema going again and the lovely random conversations with like-minded cinephiles in the Cinematheque lobby. There always will be a place for watching films at home, but this time spent in isolation has definitely reinforced my love for basking under the glow of the silver screen with all of you. Stay safe and healthy and I hope to see you all again soon at Cinematheque!