Category Archives: Cinema

Rock Paper Dice Enter – the movie

I’m reporting on some not-quite-so-ephemeral entertainment this week, with the web tv series Lizard at Home the other day and now a cinematic-release feature movie.

I’m not sure why I hadn’t heard of Rock Paper Dice Enter before today – probably I wasn’t paying attention.  A friend mentioned that he’d been to the Canadian premiere last night because he’d participated in the crowdfunding initiative, and that it had lots of local content.  It sounded interesting so I went today.

The story was a bit confusing.  Some of it ends up explained satisfyingly at the end, but I felt like maybe there was more I was supposed to figure out and didn’t.  Not just plot threads but some of the philosophical theme points.  (People complain about everything being obvious and overdone in typical Hollywood movies, but I was left wishing this one was a little bit more obvious.)   Some criminals (or are they?) are threatening (or negotiating with?) a crisis-management team of city officials.  The criminals don’t all have the same motives and information.  One of the strengths of the script, direction, and acting is that the crowd of eleven city officials was quickly shown to have several credibly distinct characters, including many who were female and/or non-white.

The local content included lots of Edmonton skylines and streetscapes and LRT station chase scenes, as well as a few other locales that I thought I should be able to place and wasn’t, quite.  I enjoyed recognising some of the views, especially since they were filmed in a way that didn’t draw attention to the details, with Blade-Runner-ish lighting – not like the hyper-detailed views of Toronto streetcars on TV shows like Being Erica and Flashpoint.

The filmmakers are Kash Gauni, who wrote the original story and who plays Roman in the film, and director Shreela Chakrabartty.   Other actors include Richard Lee (U of A acting graduate who has a strong presence in the Alberta dance community, and whom I think I first saw on stage singing in Joel Crichton’s song cycle Twenty-Five at Fringe 2011), Alyson Dicey and Chris W Cook (both frequent performers in local professional theatre), Dave Wolkowski who I saw recently on stage at the Walterdale Theatre in Starless, and a Ben Sures (who may or may not be Ben Sures the folk musician).  I did not recognise any of the other actors’ names.  I thought Richard Lee’s portrayal was one of the more interesting, along with Ojas Joshi’s computer analyst Kamran.  Georgette Starko’s public official Kim Puzzo had a distractingly flat affect and monotone voice, without enough on-screen character development to explain that.

Rock Paper Dice Enter is playing at the Landmark Cinemas 10 Clareview Edmonton until Thursday June 12th.    Their address is not on their website and Google maps is no help until you figure out that the cinema was an Empire property until recently.  It’s also playing on one screen in Calgary and one in Toronto, and it opened across India in February.

As a casual filmgoer rather than a skilled observer, I thought the production values were fine, and I liked the music.  The pace was fast enough for the genre.  The movie was quite short (about 80 minutes).   I wondered if a slightly longer version would have given me more satisfying explanations and explored the characters a bit more.

 

Saturday excursions

Last Saturday, the bookends of my day were two more Edmonton entertainment traditions, thanks to invitations from improv-class friends.

In the morning I went to Saturday Morning Cartoons at the Garneau/Metro Theatre.  For $12 (cheaper for kids, seniors, and students) you get to sit in the semi-dark theatre all morning and watch an odd assortment of cartoons and vintage Saturday-morning TV ads, while replenishing your bowl from the lobby buffet of cereal and milk.  Many of the patrons were in pajamas or reasonable comfortable facsimile.  The entertainment seemed to mostly be from the 1970s, and the familiar-seeming bits were as odd as the parts I’d never seen before.  An ITV ad showing the attractions of modern Edmonton, on a backdrop of brand-new concrete and artificially-green grass.  Scooby-Doo.  A classic McDonaldland ad.  American public service announcements reminding people not to litter, smoke cigarettes, or light forest fires.  Kid Power, which was probably considered (by white people) to be a charmingly progressive treatment of post-racial society in 1972, but which kept us muttering to each other, did they really say that??  There were lots of choices of cereal and milk options.  The lights in the theatre were dim but not extinguished, so that it wasn’t difficult to come and go during the screening.  I would definitely go again.

I’d also definitely go again to Oh! Susanna, a late night variety show at the Varscona Theatre hosted by the character Susanna Patchouli, who bears surprisingly little resemblance to Mark Meer, and her assistant the Duchess of Capilano, who sounds a little like Belinda Cornish.  The friend who was with me goes to the show regularly.  He was unsurprised that part of the show involved a bartender concocting a tasty mixed drink for the hosts and giving the recipe, and then handing out tastes of it to the whole audience, and that then something similar happened with grilled sandwich bites.  There were several other guests discussing other shows and entertainment options coming up soon in Edmonton, with the most memorable being James McClennan, a tenor who will be performing in the Edmonton Opera’s Eugene Onegin, and Lisa Norton, who will be playing Odysseus in the Citadel’s Penelopiad.  Both of them were interesting to listen to and seemed to be having fun with both the conversation about the arts and the more bizarre aspects of the Game they competed in.

Les Misérables (in all media except the novel)

I don’t have very many name-dropping theatrical-performance memories to brag about.  I saw CATS! in Toronto – but I think everyone who lived within a day’s drive and who could afford it saw CATS! in Toronto.  I saw an outdoor performance of The Importance of Being Earnest directed by Linda Carson, but that won’t mean anything to you if you’re not from Kitchener-Waterloo.  I once saw Maggie Smith do a powerful Lady Macbeth at the Stratford Festival (Ontario.)  And I saw Les Misérables in the London West End production, about 9 months after it opened.

I had never read the novel in French or in English and I didn’t have ready access to Wikipedia-type plot summaries before going to the musical, so I didn’t know much about the story or characters ahead of time.  The part that hit me hardest on that first viewing was the story of Éponine’s one-sided crush on Marius and how she struggles with facilitating Marius’s romance with Cosette.  Unfortunately, that was a familiar dynamic to me in my own life at the time.

When I saw a preview of the movie version a few weeks ago, I knew I would want to see it.  So I pre-ordered the highlights album of the movie from iTunes, and didn’t discover until after it had arrived that the highlights didn’t include “Do You Hear The People Sing?” (the song I remembered most clearly from the stage production, due to performing it in an ensemble at camp once) and some other important songs.  Still, though, I listened to the album several times before going to the movie.  That familiarity made it easier for me to take in the story and the acting, without being distracted by differences from another version of the songs.

It’s a long movie.  But unlike The Hobbit, I didn’t think any of it dragged out.  It moved compellingly from event to event and it was easy to see how one thing led to the next.  At the end of it I was exhausted, inarticulate, and out of Kleenex.  Both my cinema companions are insightful theatregoers with more knowledge of the stage show than I had, so I need to credit our discussions (in between the sniffles) for helping me articulate some of the observations below.

The story of Éponine (Samantha Barks) was still very sad, but this time around I didn’t see it as the main story.  This time, I had more interest in the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman)’s struggles to start over and to do the right thing, and even the parallel between his feelings about the Cosette (Amanda Seyfried)/Marius (Eddie Redmayne) romance and Éponine’s feelings.  Everyone who reviews this film comments on Anne Hathaway’s moving performance as Fantine, and I agree.  I liked Russell Crowe (Javert)’s singing voice a lot, but I didn’t find Javert as interesting a character as Valjean.

The colour palette of the film was noticeably limited.  It started from the blue and red and colourless tones of the French flag, echoed by uniforms of guards and prisoners, and continued almost completely in that colourway, with occasional golden lighting.  There was no green at all in the whole film except for some dark-green uniform jackets in one scene.  The venal innkeepers the Thénardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter) had somewhat more gaudy tones, which went along with the playful mood-switch of their song “Master of the House”.  M. Thénardier reminded me bizarrely of Frank N. Furter played by Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show, which was distracting.  For sheer eye-candy, Anne Hathaway and Aaron Tveit (Enjolras) were the loveliest to look at.  I recognised Aaron Tveit’s voice as that of Gabe from the Broadway recording of “Next to Normal”.

In the movie, the puniness of the barricade and the futility of the students’ rebellion were horrifyingly obvious, and the song “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, sung by Marius in the empty ruined tavern where his friends used to gather, was heartbreaking.  The movie showed the scale of the rebellion and devastation in a way that the symbolic sets of the stage show could not.

It’s still playing all over, and it doesn’t need IMAX or Real3D to feel real.

Making things for hobbits – tributes to Tolkien

I’ve been looking forward to the Peter Jackson Hobbit movie for ages, and I saw it yesterday at South Common Cineplex, in the fancy reserved-seats UltraAVX cinema in 3D.  I liked it.  I must be getting accustomed to Real3D projection, because I basically forgot about it during the movie and almost missed giving the glasses back afterwards.  Likewise, I have no opinion about whether the fast frame rate made a difference to the visual presentation.  Peter Jackson and company did a good enough job with Tolkien’s source material that I’ll be seeing the sequels as soon as they come out too.  They made some changes to the story, some of which I didn’t catch myself and the rest of which didn’t bother me, possibly because I didn’t read The Hobbit until many years after I’d been through our library’s copies of the Lord of the Rings books several times each.  In the same way as Lord of the Rings is like a bigger more important version of the quest story in The Hobbit, the movie “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” had a lot of scenes that were reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings movies.  So I didn’t find it breathtaking or thrilling.  It was what I expected and I enjoyed it.

I’ve always loved the word pictures Tolkien painted of the hobbits’ dwellings, and I thought that the movie versions almost did them justice.  They looked so cozy and comfortable, full of books and food and useful clutter, that I’ve often wished I lived in a place like that.  I live in a snug little apartment full of books and colourful clutter that feels like it’s set into the side of a creek ravine, looking out on bike paths and green space, so I sometimes imagine it being part of a smial, Tolkien’s word for a cluster of hobbit-dwellings in one hillside.  But of course I don’t have round doors and windows, and I don’t think I’d be successful convincing my neighbours on the condominium board that such an adaptation would be an asset to the neighbourhood.  I know there are a couple of buildings with round windows somewhere in Oliver, but I don’t like moving and I otherwise like it here.  So a couple of months ago I decided to fake it and make something that would look like a round doorway.

Sets of brown fabrics that looked like a hobbit hole to me.

Sets of brown fabrics that looked like a hobbit hole to me.

I started by pulling out my stash boxes.  For quilters or other textile or fabric artists, a stash doesn’t have illegal drugs in it, but bits of fabric or yarn bought without a specific purpose in mind, or leftovers saved from other projects.  I started pulling out bits of fabric that seemed appropriate to the picture in my mind – not so much the bright colours like green and yellow that Tolkien says hobbits loved to wear, but the warm golden-brown palette of natural sunlight and candlelight on adobe walls, books, wood, and pottery tableware.  I didn’t have enough, so I paid a visit to Quilter’s Dream and found more prints that fit the picture in my head – especially a paisley print, a print with old books on shelves, and ones with the names of kinds of tea and the names of varieties of red wine.  Although the employees are always friendly and interested to hear about the customers’ projects, I didn’t try explaining this one to them, because I wasn’t sure if it was going to work or whether they would have any idea what I was talking about.

Treehouse blocks, with bits of bright accent colours.

Treehouse blocks, with bits of bright accent colours.

At home I washed all the bits of fabric, and looked through my books to get some ideas of what to do with them.  In Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr’s book The Modern Quilt Workshop, I found instructions for a block called Treehouse, which used random cutting and bits of an accent colour in between chunks of a main colourway, so that seemed like it would work.  I added some rich dark reds, greens, and blues for the accent strips.

 

Blocks assembled, before sandwiching and cutting circular hole.

Blocks assembled, before sandwiching and cutting circular hole.

I cut and pieced some blocks and assembled them together in the rough shape of my patio doors with a hole in the middle.  Preliminary trials hanging the pieced top in front of the doorway showed that it was going to irritate me if the light shining through revealed the seam allowances as uneven dark bits, but that adding quilt batting would make it heavy enough to make it harder to hang, since I couldn’t just clip them or stick them to the plastic pelmet.  So off I went to a dollar store, to pick up some hook and loop tape, some bulldog clips, and a couple of cotton-polyester sheets.  Sheets are not recommended as quilt backings, and I can say after this project that they were unpleasant to work with, but they served their purpose this time, with a plain dark sheet sandwiched between a plaid-patterned sheet for the backing visible from outside and the piecework top visible from inside.

On the same trip I also scored some ten-cent poster board from a Zellers closing sale, so I taped it together, devised a compass with a measuring tape and some pins, and cut a circular template.  Sandwiching the assembly taped down on the floor worked well enough to mark the circle, but wasn’t good enough to let me pin-baste the sandwich without wrinkles.  I machine-quilted the sandwich with concentric circles, added a French binding on the circular doorway and around the edges, and sewed the hook and loop tape to the top to hang it up.

And there it is, my Doorway to the Shire.  Any day now I expect a band of adventurers to come tramping through the snow looking for a burglar.

Doorway to the Shire

Doorway to the Shire