It’s been just over a year since I became a partner in the Mayfair Theatre, Ottawa’s oldest operating cinema. We’ve shown a lot of films in that time (we average about 40 a month), and I’ve written the synopsis for almost every one.
The following is a list of a few that we’ve shown, and that
I’ve seen, and that I think you should see, if you get a chance. They’re listed
in more-or-less chronological order, and complete with my original synopsis,
written in my best ad-man-ese. Resist their bite-size appeal if you can!
Is this the future of cinema? Named one of Time’s best of 2008, and superior to
both Matrix sequels, Speed Racer converts the anime classic into a
hallucinatory, candy-coated spectacle with Mobius strip racetracks and a Mobius
strip plot. Go!
Jean-Claude Van Damme teams up with flamboyant basketballer
Denis Rodman to fight Mickey Rourke for some reason. Do you really need to know
more? Okay, it’s directed by Hong Kong legend Tsui Hark, and in one scene, JCVD
and Rodman parachute inside a giant basketball.
Never distributed and lost for decades, The Exiles is an astonishing, provocative portrait of a group
of Native American exiles – transplants from Southwest reservations – living in
the now-vanished Los Angeles neighbourhood of Bunker Hill.
Lauded by Quentin Tarantino and dozens of film critics as
one of the best films of 2008, Courtney Hunt’s feature film debut stars the
constantly underrated Melissa Leo (“Homicide”) as a single mom lured into
border smuggling between New York and Quebec across the frozen St. Lawrence
The Times of Harvey Milk
His name is Harvey Milk, and he’s here to recruit you! Rob
Epstein’s documentary on America’s first openly gay elected official provided
inspiration (and considerable footage) to Gus Van Sant’s Milk, and won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.
Sean Penn may win Best Actor, but Harvey won the election.
RIP! A Remix Manifesto
If you’ve ever illegally downloaded a song or burned a DVD,
you need to see this movie, because it’s about you. It’s time to decide which
side of the ideas war you’re on.
A deadly virus infects a small
Ontario town, turning its populace – save for the staff of the local radio
station – into violent zombies. The twist? The virus is spread through
language. The choice is clear: shut up, or die.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil
What if This is Spinal Tap was an actual documentary? It would probably look a lot like this
portrait of the “demigods of Canadian metal,” the
forgotten-but-not-gone Anvil. Featuring Lars Ulrich, Lemmy, Scott Ian, Slash
and Tom Araya! Earplugs optional.
This movie is all about deeds, not words. Deeds performed by
men who drive laser-firing dune buggies and flying, rocket-launching
motorcycles. Deeds carried out to protect freedom from threats that baffle
military intelligence and screenwriters alike. If you don’t watch Megaforce,
the terrorists win.
James Taylor is The Driver. Denis Wilson is The Mechanic.
Warren Oates is G.T.O. Laurie Bird is The Girl. They are on the road, racing
West to East for pinks. Richard Linklater called it “The purest American road
movie ever… like a drive-in movie directed by a French New Wave director. It
has the most purely cinematic ending in film history. [It is] a completely
honest movie.” Amen.
The Long Goodbye
I’ll just go ahead and say it: Robert Altman’s rarely-seen
and almost-always misunderstood The Long Goodbye is the best film adaptation of Raymond Chandler ever, and Elliot Gould
is the best Philip Marlowe (sorry, Humphrey Bogart). Coincidentally, this is
also the only Chandler adaptation to feature a cameo by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Friedkin’s remake of Clouzot’s Wages of Fear follows a group of desperate outcasts driving trucks
loaded with nitroglycerine through the jungle to snuff an oil well fire.
Relentlessly suspenseful. Uncompromisingly cinematic. Practically perfect.
An American Werewolf in London
Rick Baker won the Oscar for best makeup for this irreverent
– and brilliantly scary – take on the werewolf legend that proves it’s worth
being mauled by a creature of the night, as long as Jenny Agutter nurses you
back to health.
Ever wonder why Jackie Chan cites Buster Keaton as one of
his inspirations? Look no further than this sidesplitting, death-defying tale
of an engineer who risks all to save his two loves – his girlfriend and his
train – in the midst of the Civil War.
At 19, Michael
Peterson was sentenced to seven years in prison. He has since served 34 years,
30 of them in solitary confinement, because behind bars, he became Charles
Bronson, the U.K.’s most famous and violent prisoner. This
based-on-a-true-story asks, ”What does society do with someone whose art is
Ian Driscoll stays crispy in milk.