Reviews & Previews - Calgary International Film Festival - Journal

Posted on Wednesday, October 05, 2005 at 06:00 PM

Calgary International Film Festival - Journal

By: S. Tran

Part 5 - Sunday

Wow the last day of the festival arrived faster than I thought possible. I've seen some good films and bad films and Sunday was my last chance to get lucky, ummm with a good movie that is. During the course of the festival I didn't really have much of a system for picking movies. I did make a conscious decision to ignore the section listing a film's awards and tried to see more Canadian products. Beyond that I just saw the movies that interested me based on the description.

That's why the first movie on Sunday was The Grizzly Man. It was a documentary about this nutty amateur biologist (who knew you could be an amateur biologist?) who lived around Grizzly bears in Alaska. The show was sold out and that surprised me given the subject matter and the fact I hadn't heard much about it. After the show though I understood why it was a packed house. This is one of the funniest movies I've seen all year and worth your time. It opens at the Uptown soon so check it out. A review will follow in a few days.

I cleared out of the theatre and grabbed a spot in line for my next and last choice of the festival, the collection of Alberta short films. I was alone again tonight as the wife had missed the cut off for advance ticket sales and didn't want to wait in line. In front of me was the sub lady from a couple of nights ago.

She didn't have her sub with her this time. I'm assuming she either gave up on it and threw it away or a pack of wild dogs attacked her and finished it. In any event we started talking while waiting for the theatre to open and I find out she has been to 34 movies during the festival! Based on the price of her festival pass she said it worked out to $3.75 per movie.

We eventually got into the theatre for the final show and were joined by a light crowd, maybe 60-75 people. Apparently these short films were the best of the Alberta shorts submitted to the festival so my expectations were pretty high yet still realistic. Generally, short films have small budgets, volunteer actors and are done as cheaply as possible so you can only expect so much. I also went because I just completed my own short film and wanted to see where others were setting the bar in Alberta.

Of the seven or eight films that played only a couple stood out for me. The best of the night was one called When Jesse Was Born. Another good one was How to Make a Canadian Film which provided some pretty funny satire on the Canadian film industry as a whole. Not surprisingly both seemed to have a bigger budget than your usual short film.

With that the festival was done for me and I look forward to next year. Totals for me during the festival (keeping in mind I missed the first 3 days) were: 5 days, 10 films, one donair, one Vietnamese sub, one Sobe energy drink, one bag of cashews, one nap during a film and 2 sightings of semi-celebrities.

Part 4 - Saturday

Saturday was shaping up to be my first full day of the festival. I had planned to see three films that day and my wife decided to tag along with me. This created some complications as it meant we were going to have to compromise on the films we were going to see as we both have different tastes in films. On the other hand it meant I wouldn't have to sit alone in the theatre telling people "Yes all those seats beside me are empty. No I'm not saving them for anyone."

The day started with the Tale Spinners Collection. These were a bunch of family shorts playing at Eau Claire. I wanted to see what the festival was offering for the younger set. All the films were animated and most from the National Film Board. This of course meant that they all followed the NFB rules that dictate all animated films must involve stories about foreign cultures and how we should all get along.

I'm being a bit cynical but I wished there was at least one film that didn't involve children learning about and accepting each other's different cultures. One day I'm going to make a NFB animated short about two kids from different cultures who just eat junk food, argue, watch TV and bug their parents.

After a short break in the afternoon we headed back downtown to watch The Beautiful Country at the uptown. My wife's friend met us to see this one. We saw her as she was slowly sneaking up through the long line for the film. We enjoyed this one and said goodbye to the friend as we ran across the street for the next movie which was my wife's choice.

For the final movie of the night she had chosen Clara Et Moi a French film about a young couple falling in love and dealing with complications. Not exactly what I would have chosen to be sure. I have a natural bias against cute, love stories to begin with. We settled down into our seats and met a man who had seen 19 films. This seemed like a lot to me until I met someone who had seen 34 films that week (more on her later).

I struggled through the movie which seemed to drag on way past the running time in the program. Afterward I was only mildly surprised to find that my wife felt the same way about it. Choosing films at the festival is such a crap shoot sometimes. As the film was her choice and turned out so badly I now have one loud action movie free pass banked for the next time we go out.

Tomorrow is the last day of the festival and I am hoping that I'll get lucky with another good film.

Part 3 Friday

Thursday was a wash as real life interrupted my festival plans. Friday though promised to be good as I planned to see Capote based on Truman Capote's experience writing his book "In Cold Blood". This movie has been generating some serious buzz so I wanted to check it out even though it wasn't a Canadian production and had some bigger stars like Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Capote.

I met up with Mike, a local film maker, and we got there early to get a seat as it promised to be a sell out. In line (my media pass had lost its line jumping powers) we met this lady who was eating the biggest sub I have ever seen. In the 20 minutes we waited she was eating that sub diligently and barely made a dent in it. I suspect she had that sub for lunch for the next few days and maybe even set up a soup kitchen to feed it to the homeless. I swear this was one of those gag subs that just kept coming out of the bag.

We finally got seated in the theatre and I noticed it was pretty warm. Now to be fair I wasn't sure if it was because I was tired, or the movie was not that great or if it was the heat but I have to admit I nodded off for a few minutes about 30 minutes into the movie. It could have been a combination of the three but Mike said he also snoozed for a bit during the movie.

In any event I was so wiped after seeing it that I decided to call it a night. Because of that I'll give you my mini-review of Capote here.


Director: Bennett Miller
Cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., Mark Pellegrino, Bruce Greenwood, Chris Cooper
Running Time: 110 minutes

The good: Hoffman does ( I am told) a brilliant impersonation of Capote. I've never met or seen Capote but apparently Hoffman is dead on. Keener, last seen as the girlfriend in The 40 Year Old Virgin, is excellent as Capote's assistant and friend Harper Lee.

The Bad: The rest of the film. This is one of those pretentious films that is so full of itself that the people involved lost sight of the fact the film has gone off track. I can only imagine the Oscar buzz that must have been floating around the set. After all you've got a serious film here with some serious material and actors acting seriously.

Too bad the entire thing is presented in such a lifeless, dreary, empty manner. There is simply not enough of a story here to warrant 110 minutes. This might have been a decent one hour film for TV but to stretch it over almost 2 hours was asking for too much from the screenplay. Perhaps this is why the film is littered with scenes of fields and those quiet moments where nothing happens and we are supposed to admire the actors' abilities to convey so much by doing nothing.

I'm sure the intellectual elite and main stream critics will fall all over themselves to expound the virtues of this film and Hoffman will certainly garner an Oscar nomination. However all that doesn't change the fact that this is one dull movie from the script to the pacing to the washed out colours.

2 out of 5 stars


Part 2 - Wednesday

Day two of the festival for me started with a bunch of running around after work before I could finally get down to the theatres to check out the films. In keeping with supporting Canadian artists I chose a couple of homegrown films to see. Even though I didn't actually pay for my tickets I figured my presence there would provide moral support.

The first film was Eve and the Fire Horses about a couple of young Chinese girls discovering religion. I grabbed what I thought was a choice seat in the middle and was ready to enjoy when I hear these three ladies behind me talking. No problem, I figure they are having a night out.

The lights dim and the ads start playing. The three bitties are still yakking up a storm. My "Rude Movie Goer" radar starts tripping, this is a bad sign. They haven't even bothered to lower their voices and they are constantly making the most idiotic jokes to each other causing them to laugh in a high pitched squeal. Still, its only the ads so I can live with it.

The movie starts to play, so I think that they will finally stop talking as they seem to be movie fans from what I heard of their conversation. As the opening credits start to roll though their conversation continues unabated. This is definitely a bad sign. Now some people would argue that opening credits aren't really the start of the movie so talking is no big deal. I have to disagree, plus I wasn't going to take any chances. I pack my things and move far away to a different seat as I didn't want to risk hearing "Oh my gawdddd, I read its her first movie" "Wasn't your Johnnie in a movie once?" "No that was Agne's boy Tommy"etc etc through the entire film.

Anyway after my seat change I really enjoyed the film and was feeling good about the start to the night.

I had about an hour until the next film started and grabbed a donair before getting in line. That's when I saw my first (and only) celebrity of the night, Mike Lownsborough (spelling?) the former sports guy on 2&7. He was in my line with a date for Soft Ice, a documentary about hockey in Texas. Don't know what he's been up to lately but the guy looks the same as he always has.

There were about 4 shorts preceding the movie and just as the last finished the lights come up and there's my wife standing up telling the audience she is looking for her husband. Turns out I had both sets of keys to the house after I dropped her off with some friends. She couldn't find me in the dark and I didn't see her walking up and down the aisle. A little embarrassing for both of us. But no one seemed to care and I finished the movie without any more complications. Won't be seeing anything tomorrow but the weekend is set to be a film marathon as I'm planning to watch movies all day and night.

Part 1 - Tuesday

Going to take a break from film reviews for a few days to report on the Calgary International Film Festival. Thanks to the great guys at I scored a media pass to the CIFF which means I get to go see all the movies for free.

I've been out of town the last few days so I've missed a few days of the festival. Last night was my first chance to see some movies.

I always wondered how cool it would be to get a press pass and skip through all the line-ups and yesterday I got my chance to do it. My final analysis? Its better than I thought. When I got to the theatre there were a couple of line ups outside. Given that the wind was chillier than a Paris Hilton-Nicole Ritchie sleep over I decided to make a brazen run for the door flashing my media pass hoping that it would give me super human line jumping powers. Sure enough I flew past all the door people without a second glance.

I settled into a prime seat at the Uptown to catch a movie called Six Figures by a Calgarian director named David Christensen. After the usual introductions and sponsor acknowledgements David grabbed his seat in the audience which was right in front of my seat. The theatre was a good 80% full for the movie and was well received. I will write up a review of it when I get a chance to later as well as all the movies I see this week.

Right after the movie I headed upstairs to catch another Canadian film called Fetching Cody by directors David Ray and Carolyn Allain. This time my media card failed to impress the door person and I was told to go get a blue ticket before heading into the theatre. The blue ticket was free, I just had to get one to get in. This film was less well attended, maybe about 40% capacity for the theatre which was a shame because it was a pretty good little film.

No after hours parties for me as I have a full time job to wake up for. More importantly, I was not invited to any. I'm sure there were some industry people there but I am new to the scene so the only person I recognized was David Christensen and that's because he got introduced to us before his film. There were also no sightings of Brad or Angelina but maybe they were hanging out at Safeway again.


NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to