Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Double feature

I've always tried to see a healthy percentage of Oscar-nominated films before the big ceremony, if only to give me enough knowledge to cheer or boo.  It was tough enough with five nominated films, but since they upped the maximum to ten, my percentages have been pretty dismal.

This year, nine films have been nominated.  I have no intention of seeing 12 Years a Slave (too squeamish), Gravity (too block-bustery and epic), Captain Phillips (ditto), or The Wolf of Wall Street. (Dubious entrepreneurs and scantily-dressed women? Again?  Give me a break.)  I missed an opportunity to see Nebraska a couple of weeks ago, due to rotten weather and too much else going on.  We saw Philomena over the Christmas break, and Her about ten days ago.

Yesterday was cold, but clear, and I had the chance to catch a morning screening of Dallas Buyers Club.

Rainbow Cinemas is a second-run franchise with half a dozen theatres in Ontario (four of which are in Toronto -- a place that loves its movies), and two in Saskatchewan.  The one in Ottawa is a little bleak, being in the lower level of the St Laurent Shopping Mall nestled between a business college and a fitness centre, but the staff is pleasant and the prices are reasonable.

Very reasonable yesterday, which turned out to be "$2.50 Tuesday".  This meant a rather better turn-out than one might expect for a 10 am show.  It also meant an older crowd, which included people turning up who might not ordinarily choose such a movie.

Dallas Buyers Club is based on a true story and as such, probably had very little to do with what actually happened.  This doesn't trouble me that much; most "true" films cannot afford to be that accurate, because they need to tell an entertaining story in a limited amount of time.  As it was, the film is longer than a lot of movies these days, just under two hours.  (Feels longer.)

Although the real Ron Woodroof was apparently not quite as tough and homophobic as portrayed by Matthew McConaughey, the film does capture the terror of AIDS in the eighties, when a diagnosis was an automatic death sentence, and AIDS patients were ostracized and feared.  I was a hospice volunteer in Victoria, and for the first few years that AIDS patients began being admitted, the true nature of their illness was not made public (although we volunteers were usually allowed to know), for fear of the janitorial staff refusing to clean their rooms.

Our "$2.50 Tuesdays" crowd had a touch of that eighties hostility.  It was, as I've mentioned, an older crowd and a couple of fellows apparently thought they were home watching television.  One guy kept saying, "Hurry up and die," and got into a shouting match with an elderly man who shouted "Asshole!" several times after him as he left the theatre which was odd, because the elderly man had been commenting throughout the film himself.

Leto with post-Felicity-and-Alias Garner
I managed to concentrate despite the interruptions.  I was more distracted by remembering Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto from their nineties television careers, to tell you the truth.
Leto in "My So-called Life" with Claire Danes

How did I feel about the flick? Well, if we're continuing to be truthful, I only went to see this because elder daughter requested it. I think it was well-done, but if actors are competent (and these were), is it really necessary to go through the frankly dangerous weight-changes to make us believe how sick they are?

On the whole, I was rather glad I'd only paid $2.50.

That evening, I was out at a cinema again, snatching my only opportunity to see at least one of the nominees for best foreign language film.  Besides, I had heard good things about The Great Beauty.

The Bytowne Cinema is a very different venue from Rainbow Cinemas.  It shows mainly art-house films and is a glorious old theatre with a huge screen and a balcony, if you please.  The clientele probably don't frequent the St Laurent Shopping Mall much either.

Then there was the film which was Italian.  Very Italian. The story -- if you can call it a story; it's really more a parade of beautiful images -- follows a fellow who has just celebrated turning 65 by having a large bacchanalia on a rooftop in Rome (his posh apartment overlooks the Coliseum, doncha know) and is now contemplating mortality when he's not having meals with friends or having sex with women.  Of course, this being an Italian film, the women are in their forties, rather than in their twenties as in a Hollywood production.

Mind you, it didn't help when I fell asleep and woke up in the middle of a funeral scene. (No, it wasn't due to boredom; I was just really comfortable.)  There was more than one possibility for the dear departed and I was further confused when one of these candidates turned up in the next scene, appeared to die, then didn't.  Then her father was being consoled a couple of scenes later.

And that was only halfway through the film.

Anyway, the cinematography was lovely; the music was evocative (Tavener, Gorecki, etc.).  My favourite bit was actually the ending credits, which play over the view from a boat moving steadily up (or down) the Tiber in the half-light of dawn (or dusk).

Then I got up and made my way home over the ice flows.

Tomorrow night, if it isn't too grim, I'm off to see American Hustle, which, if nothing else, will mean I've seen at least one performance in each nominated category.

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