Swining' like you wouldn't ba-lieve!

Spring brings birds, colours, and warmth, and the un-merry, midnight clamor of raccoon sex (which sort of sounds like a cat being beaten to death with a baseball bat), but we also get the phenomenon known as ‘overlapping film festivals’ and special screenings. This isn’t to say there’s less to see & do in the winter, but certainly in the coming months, there will be no shortage of films from every culture in every genre in and around Toronto.

Before I get into the current & upcoming crop, this past Wednesday yielded a screening at the Gendai Station of Carl Michael von Hausswold and Thomas Nordanstad’s short film Hashima, Japan 2002.

Critical Thoughts: Gerald Peary on American Film Criticism

This past Sunday For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism (2009) screened at the Bloor Cinema, and writer / director Gerald Peary was on hand to introduce the film and take part in an audience Q&A, followed by a panel discussion with several Toronto film critics.

I’ve uploaded a review [M] of the film, which also includes details on the 40 mins. of bonus interviews on the DVD, available exclusively from the film’s website. Additionally, I’ve uploaded edited excerpts from both Peary’s pre-screening intro and post-screening audience Q&A, archived at my YouTube Channel Big Head Amusements.

Jean Renoir in America, Part 1

J'approve le Ray-de-Bleu, mes petites mignons cineastes!

As the basic details go, esteemed French director Jean Renoir hopped over to Italy to make the film Tosca when his latest, Rules of the Game (1939) was met with distate by critics and the establishment. Then Mussolini sided with Hitler, and Renoir decided to abandon his stake in Tosca (a film eventually completed by  Carl Koch, and released in 1941) and return to France, only to flee to American when the Nazis invaded his homeland.

Renoir would eventually return to more personal fare in 1951 (some filmed in English, most in French), and his American films (1941-1947) are more interesting for the way in which Renoir's own themes and interests transcended straight Hollywood genres, insofar as the studios under which he was contracted tried to render his films more palatable to average audiences.

Renoir purists may regard his U.S. period as less than stellar, but I think time's been rather kind to most of his works - each somewhat compromised, but still quite distinct from the generic southern dramas, anti-Nazi thrillers, and melodramas in production during that period.

‘Swell Welles’ Part II – Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, The Battle Over Citizen Kane, and RKO 281

Citizen Gulliver stands proudly above the small farming community he led prior to beginning his quest for global media domination.

Flipping back to the beginning of Orson Welles’ film career (minus Hearts of Age, his 1934 sophomoric short film effort), Citizen Kane [M] which as been called the greatest most awesome untouchably perfect supremely brilliant most genius creation ever-ever.

I say this in jest, but it is a conundrum for anyone presenting this at a screening, in class, in a documentary, on home video, or even discussing it in writing: how do you not bring up that ‘greatest ever’ branding?

The alternative is ‘Here’s a little known film made by the guy who used to advise us that Paul Masson’s wines are never sold prior to their time’ on TV, or got very angry during the taping of a frozen peas advert.


Soundtrack Reviews + News

Just uploaded is a quartet of reviews for ongoing (and likely eternal) franchises:

Doctor Who continues to steam through new seasons, and Silva Screen’s latest release features 2+ hours of Murray Gold’s music from Season 6 [M]. Also from Silva is music from Sherlock: Season 1 [M], composed by David Arnold and Michael Price, who do a pretty good job aurally linking the series with the current feature film franchise, scored by Hans Zimmer.

'Swell Welles' Part I: Orson Welles' Magnificent Ambersons (1939, 1942, and 2002) & More!

The standard approach to tackling Orson Welles on home video is to start from scratch and begin with his first film, Citizen Kane (1941), but I’ve decided to begin this review wave of Wellesian material on DVD and Blu-ray with his 1942 adaptation of Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons, partly because it’s so imperfect.
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