C/O Jessica Yang

By: Serena Habib, Contributor

These films are sure to make your holiday season brighter

Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas began on Oct. 22, but in the midst of the midterm melee, online lectures are the only films I have seen. I am itching to watch a holiday romance. Every year, my mother and I record an absurd number of films as they come on TV, only ever managing to steal away some time to watch a few. 

However, those moments have left me warm and cozy memories and something to look forward to when I come home for the winter break. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry and sometimes we try to predict which corny line will come next (often succeeding and thus feeling very accomplished). 

Whether they take place in sparkling winter wonderlands or toasty tropical destinations, holiday romances are a chance to live vicariously through fictional characters and escape into happy endings, brightening up every holiday season. There are many holiday romances on my watchlist, but based on those I have seen, here are 10 holiday romance recommendations from me. 

The Holiday, 2006

Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jack Black and Jude Law are captivating to the end in this charming romantic comedy. In this film, two girls switch places with one seeking to escape her current life in pursuit of solace only to find love. This movie is sure to make you laugh and to make your heart melt. 

Love Actually, 2003

I think the fact that this is Taylor Swift’s favourite holiday movie says it all. Love Actually is a classic holiday rom com, following 10 couples’ relationships as their paths all interconnect. The characters are relatable and played by a well-known cast. Additionally, every couple experiences a different narrative that illustrates the highs and lows of love. This classic deserves a spot on your watch list! 

Serendipity, 2001

Serendipity is a story about fate and love that is meant to be. Sara Thomas and Jon Trager come from two different worlds, but when they meet they feel instantly connected. Instead of staying in touch, Sara decides to leave their future to fate. The dramatic irony in this film as Sara and Jon are greeted by coincidence repeatedly kept me invested until the very end, hoping and praying that their true love would prevail.

A Christmas Prince, 2017

This movie is followed by two others, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding and A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby. All three films are worth watching! Although a royal romance seems cliché, the plot has unexpected twists and turns that make it unique, mysterious and heartwarmingly wholesome. This film is sure to keep you on your toes all the while making you laugh and fall in love with its characters. 

The Princess Bride, 1987

The Princess Bride may not be on a typical holiday romance list, but it does actually take place during the holiday season and follows an overarching romance. It combines comedy, fantasy, action, drama and a fairy-tale for an experience that everyone will enjoy, regardless of their taste in movies.

Holiday in the Wild, 2019

Kate takes her second honeymoon alone after getting dumped by her husband to find passion, community and love. This movie is a must-watch if only to watch the friendship and beauty that comes with caring for elephants.

Ghost of Girlfriends Past, 2009

Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner are sensational in this whimsical satire on the traditional Scrooge. It is simply worth watching to see McConaughey terrified by ghosts that haunt him about his playboy ways and nothing screams swoon-worthy like a reformed playboy.

Bridget Jones’ Diary, 2001

Bridget Jones is a realistic and relatable character whose awkwardness brings charm and comedy to this hilarious film. With Colin Firth and Hugh Grant as the two romantic interests, this movie follows a love triangle that you do not want to miss.

I’m Not Ready for Christmas, 2015

This is a Hallmark movie that I personally found memorable due to its unique plot, which is both heartfelt and hilarious. After her niece makes a wish to Santa Claus, seasoned fibber Holly Nolan can no longer lie, resulting in some truly comical mishaps as she attempts to navigate her career and relationship, finding new meaning in her life. 

Christmas Connection, 2017

After Leah forgets a package on her flight, flight attendant Sydney delivers it, causing her to miss her next connection and subsequently spend the holidays with Leah and her father. This movie is about family, holiday traditions, the reasons to celebrate and finding a place to call home. 

Whether you watch one film on this list, get hooked and watch all 10 or spend time enjoying your own favourites, watching a holiday romance is sure to provide some comfort and joy this season. 

C/O Westdale Cinema

The Westdale’s Film Talks invites people to remember the power of classic films through the Movies that Mattered and World Cinema Masterworks film series 

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way we view film — microwave popcorn and Netflix have become staples to replace the in-person theatre experience, as countless release dates were pushed back and many major theatrical releases moved online. Now reopening its doors after extended closures, The Westdale is welcoming moviegoers back to the theatre and bringing magic back to classical movies with their new Film Talks series.

Located at 1014 King Street West in the heart of Westdale Village, the not-for-profit theatre is now back to running at full capacity after the most recent changes to provincial health guidelines.

The Westdale is excited to invite people back to partake in the communal film-watching experience. Neal Miller, The Westdale’s executive director, is glad they can be back to being a stage and a staple within the Hamilton community, where people can come to share in their mutual love of film and the arts.

“Movies are great to watch at home — they’re very convenient, you can press pause to use the restroom or let the dog out, but you can’t deny that something happens when you view [a movie] together, communally. You experience [the movies] in a different way when you hear other people laugh, take a deep breath or cry,”

Neal miller
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Film Talks is a new series at The Westdale, where a selection of classic films are screened with a discussion and critical analysis of the film included as part of admission. Film Talks was born from the COVID-19 pandemic, when the theatre was in search of a way to move their operations to a virtual format. 

“As soon as COVID hit in March of 2020, we understood that we didn’t have a venue anymore, so what we did was come up with Film Talks. We did them at first on Facebook live, where we selected a film, usually a classic, and then we would have [a film expert] talking,” explained Miller.

Given the success of Film Talks in a virtual space, The Westdale expanded the film series to include local filmmakers and artists though a Canadian originals series, as well as film noir and Christmas classics series. From Pulp Fiction to Lord of the Rings, the Film Talks series has a variety of films to choose from.

Film Talks now runs every Sunday at The Westdale, hosted by Fred Fuchs and Jeff Bender in discussions about the impact of films on the film industry and society. Fuchs is an independent film and television producer who hosts “Movies that Mattered,” a series in which he discusses films known for challenging audiences’ perspectives on topics such as sexism, racism, classism and xenophobia. Bender, a volunteer at The Westdale and film enthusiast, hosts “World Cinema Masterworks,” a series which highlights the work of international filmmakers.

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“If you haven’t seen the movie before, I welcome people to come to the Westdale’s beautiful heritage theatre and experience something new for the first time. Share your ideas, your first instinct, your first thought or your first emotion. For those who have watched the movies years and years ago, take an inventory of how you feel seeing it the second or third or fifth time . . . It’s where it hits you in the heart and in the brain,” said Miller.

Whether it’s your first or fifth time experiencing a classic film, The Westdale invites people to come with an open mind and engage with the classics. From crane shots to sweeping soundtracks and important ideas, Film Talks is an opportunity to share and reflect on the power of cinema with a community of cinephiles. 

The majority of the Film Talks showings are movies that can no longer be found on the big screen. The theatre invites students and community members to engage in film history, to talk, discuss, listen and share in the experience of watching good movies.

“The reception has been really excellent. We’ve gotten really good attendance and people are just happy to be out and having discourse in public [and] meeting with others . . . Get out and experience as much as you can, because you never know when you just have to stay home for two years. We all took for granted going to see a comedy show or a concert and then it got taken away. Time is fickle, so come out and experience something live and in-person,” said Miller.

The Westdale is operating in accordance with all provincial health guidelines. Moviegoers are required to reserve seating in advance of the screening and vaccine passports are currently required to enter the establishment. The theatre is also thoroughly cleaned between showings.

Moviegoers are invited to come with an open mind and experience the classics on the big screen once again. Now back as a Hamilton community staple, the Westdale’s Film Talks is a reminder of the power of film to change your perspective on the world. 

Mix and match these beloved movies to create the perfect marathon for a stay-at-home Halloween weekend

From apple picking to trick-or-treating, fall houses a variety of beloved traditions. One of my oldest friends and I have a long-running tradition of spending Halloween together. When we were younger we used to go trick-or-treating together, but in more recent years we’ve stayed in, baked and watched movies. Neither of us is a scary movie fan by any means so we’ve gravitated towards the more wholesome Halloween movies.

While many things have changed this year, we are still able to stay in and enjoy some good Halloween movies. With the holiday falling on Saturday, it’s the perfect night to stay in and enjoy a good film. Here’s my list of the top 10 wholesome Halloween movies.

The Addams Family, 1991 or 2019

Addams Family Family Picture GIF from Addamsfamily GIFs

Just from reading this line you probably can already hear the theme song playing in your head. Join this spooky family with their pet hand as they navigate the tribulations of family dynamic when their long lost uncle mysteriously shows up at their house one day. On the other hand, you can watch the recently animated version of the film that is sure to bring a smile to your face with its outlandish humour. The animated film is available on Amazon Prime Video.

Ghostbusters, 1984 or 2016

Ghost Busters Holding On GIF from Ghostbusters GIFs

A favourite of my younger sister, these uplifting supernatural comedies are centred around the adventures of a group of ghost-catchers. The 1984 film details the origins of the original ghost-busting business and the professors-turned-ghosthunters exploits leading up to the team’s confrontation with an otherworldly, demonic threat. The more recent 2016 follows the formation of a new, all-female team of Ghostbusters, including a paranormal researcher, a physicist, an engineer and a subway worker. Both are available on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.

Halloweentown, 1998

Riding A Broom - Halloweentown GIF from Halloweentown GIFs

A favourite for students who grew up in the early 2000s, Halloweentown is truly one of those movies that scream a Halloween classic. A story about curiosity and exploration into family heritage, join Marnie as she adventures to her grandmother’s mysterious town where ghosts, goblins, ghouls and witches live in harmony amongst themselves. If you like this movie, you’re in luck as there are also three additional films in the franchise. All are available on Disney+.

Hocus Pocus, 1993

Hocus Pocus Put ASpell On You GIF from Hocuspocus GIFs

What would happen if witches from Salem were brought back from the grave today? With an all-star line up playing the Sanderson sisters, the three sisters witches are looking for vengeance on Halloween night. This movie is definitely a cult classic and it is sure to put a spell on you. Currently available on Disney+, a sequel was just confirmed featuring the original cast.

Hotel Transylvania, 2012

Blehbleh Vampire GIF from Blehbleh GIFs

In the late 1800s, Count Dracula opened a luxury hotel for monsters, to provide them with a reprieve from humans and to create a safe environment in which he can raise his daughter Mavis. Now approaching her 118th birthday, Mavis is eager to leave and explore the world to the great concern of her father. To make things even more complicated Jonathan, a human backpacker, discovers the resort just before the birthday celebration starts. Available on Netflix, this adorable and comical movie puts a twist on familiar Halloween figures, including Frankenstein and his bride, werewolves and mummies as well as the usual vampire love story.

It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, 1966

Great Pumpkin GIF from Pumpkin GIFs

No list would be complete without this classic short. This movie is another one of my personal favourites. I often end up watching it once with my family in the week leading up to Halloween and then again with my friend. A lighthearted and uplifting Halloween special shows the Halloween preparations of the Peanuts gang, including Linus’ time staking out the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin to the exasperation of the rest of his friends, all leading up the big night of trick-or-treating. Available on Amazon Prime Video.

The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993

The Pumpkin King Walk GIF from Thepumpkinking GIFs

This eerie and entertaining film, with the music to match, is centred on Jack Skellington, the King of “Halloween Town.” Bored with what he sees as the monotony of yearly Halloween, he wanders off and stumbles upon  Christmas Town. Excited by this new holiday, he attempts to not only bring Christmas to Halloween Town but also usurp Santa Claus. Available on Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, this is a perfect film for those who are just waiting until Halloween to be over to start playing Christmas music (or who have already started!).

Over the Garden Wall, 2014

Over The Garden Wall OTGW GIF from Overthegardenwall GIFs

One of my younger brother’s favourites, this is a spooky, but also very sweet mini-series. The story follows two half-brothers — worry-prone Wirt and happy-go-lucky Greg — as they try to find their way back home through deep dark woods. On the way, they cross paths with the mysterious Woodsman, the feisty bluebird Beatrice among many, many more fantastical beings, all with their own reasons for being in the woods. Available on Amazon Prime Video.

Scooby-Doo:

Scoobydoo Run GIF from Scoobydoo GIFs

The mystery-solving adventures of four meddling kids and their dog could almost be a marathon on its own. The franchise is a long time favourite of my family; we’ve seen just about all of them, from the original 1969 Scooby-Doo: Where Are You? TV show to the more recent movies. Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost and Scooby-Doo! Frankencreepy are among some of the obviously Halloween-themed films, but all of the series offers a nostalgic, wholesome and comically spooky narrative, so you can pick and choose your favourites from the 30 plus films and 14 television series, many of which are on Amazon Prime Video.

Twitches, 2005:

Twitches Tia And Tamera GIF from Twitches GIFs

Based on the book series of the same name, this Disney Channel original movie is centred around twin sisters, Alex and Camryn. Born in the magical realm of Coventry, they are brought to Earth in order to be protected from the evil entity, the Darkness and go on to be adopted by different families. The two sisters don’t meet again until their 21st birthday when their magical history is revealed and they are given the responsibility to save their home realm. This fantastical, lighthearted movie along with its sequel are both available on Disney+.

In December of 2016, Westdale’s iconic movie theatre was put on the market. Opening in 1935, the 495 seat, 6630-square-foot, single-screen avenue was a staple of the Hamilton community.

At the time, Ward 1 councillor and longtime theatregoer Aidan Johnson had been working for over a year to designate the theatre as property of Cultural Heritage to help protect it under the Ontario Heritage Act.

“The cinema is an integral part of the original heritage landscape of Westdale Village. It is inseparable from Westdale itself. It needs to be protected,” said Johnson

The Westdale Cinema Group, a non-profit, was formed to purchase the theatre shortly after, and their offer was accepted in February. A group of individuals and organizations alike, they are continuing to find the donations needed to restore the theatre.

The planned renovations promise new washrooms, an expanded snack bar, new theatre seats, state-of-the-art projection and sound equipment, and an expanded stage to host theatre, music and lecture series.

Films remain a priority, but it is apparent that they wish to expand the functions of the area to make a multi-purpose venue.

“Through our Board of Directors, our goal is to create Hamilton’s premier cinema screening experience for art and independent films and a state-of-the-art exhibition space for music, readings, lecture, video streaming and public meetings,” said the group.

Despite these additions and changes, they also promise that the heritage and historic atmosphere of the theatre will remain intact with a restored 1935 façade, restored architectural detailing, a restored auditorium and the consistency of the front lobby snack bar and back lobby lounge.

While restoration of the theatre begins this month, the group still needs $1.5 million. They are accepting grants from all levels of government, but they need additional funds. Their method is a public fundraising campaign called, “Building Magic,” with reward levels similar to a Kickstarter with products and services from local companies and people featured.

The lowest starts at $19.35 with a custom designed pin by local designer Rachelle Letain. The mid levels include a special screening of Bram Stoker’s Dracula with the film’s producer, multiple options for limited-edition prints, the ability to name a seat and the ability to have your message on the marquee for a week. The maximum level is

$10 000, which offers the full theatre for the night with unlimited popcorn and soft drinks for all attendees.

They are also accepting volunteers if you would like to contribute with time instead of money.

“As we build the new Westdale, we want the tradition of presenting magic to continue — whether visiting the Westdale, for film, music, theatre, or to hear an author.”

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#10 — Inside Out (review by: Joe Jodoin)

This Pixar masterpiece is not just the best kid’s film of the past few years, but it managed to draw a large adult audience as well.

What’s shocking about this film is that it has a really clever and high-concept story that is still engaging for children. Arguably, making great films that are equally loved by children and adults is one of the hardest things for a filmmaker to achieve. Michael Giacchino’s score is also beautiful and unique, and works perfectly to make every important moment of the film more powerful and memorable.

More than anything, Inside Out deserves recognition because it represents the height of what modern filmmaking can achieve: it’s funny, emotional, powerful, re-watchable, and original, with great animation and a deep message.

#9 — Straight Outta Compton (review by: Hess Sahlollbey)

A biopic recounting the career of the N.W.A. on the rap music charts of the early 90s, Straight Outta Compton was the sleeper hit of the summer. Directed by F. Gary Gray with Dr. Dre and Ice Cube as producers, the film recounts the rise and fall of five friends from the eponymous neighborhood in California that popularized gangster rap. The artists in the film base their music on their emotions towards the injustices and discriminations that black Americans suffered in the 80s. Yet the film still functions as an effective commentary on not just black history and American history, but on contemporary race relations, issues and social change that is still relevant today. The film stars O’Shea Jackson, Jr. as his father Ice Cube, Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, Jason Mitchell as the late Eazy-E, and  Paul Giamatti as their manipulative manager. The film can best be summed with that famous line from their debut album: “You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.”

#8 — Star Wars: The Force Awakens (review by: Trisha Gregorio)

Considering the significance of its release late in 2015, it feels wrong not to include Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Taking over George Lucas’ brainchild in this seventh installment, J.J. Abrams recaptures the action and charm that has long defined the Star Wars film franchise, and makes it into something exclusively his.

The Force Awakens achieves a careful balance between old and new, whether that be in its storyline or the interweaving of both familiar and fresh new faces. Most notable, however, is its accessibility to a generation that grew up on everything space and sci-fi, as well as a generation that has only passively heard of it, heralding an era of much promise for the future of the Star Wars series.

#7 — Sicario (review by: Joe Jodoin)

Sicario is an incredibly tense morality tale about a young up-and-coming FBI agent thrust into a world of hitmen, assassins, drugs, and lies, where she is forced to confront serious ethical questions about the lengths one should go to protect their nation’s security.

Not only is the plot of this movie incredibly interesting, but the cast including Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin makes up one of the best ensembles of the year.

What Sicario excels at most, however, is building up incredible tension that keeps the viewers on the edge of their seats, clenching their fists for minutes on end, with each scene progressively becoming tenser than the next. This is action-packed and thought-provoking filmmaking at its finest.

#6 — The Hateful Eight (review by: Joe Jodoin)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnRbXn4-Yis

Those who are familiar with Quentin Tarantino are also familiar with the writer/director’s signature style: brilliantly crafted characters, hilariously memorable dialogue, non-linear narrative and a sprinkling of over-the-top violence that’s not for the faint of heart. The Hateful Eight delivers all of this and more, in a nearly three-hour long thriller that keeps viewers on the edge of their seat. The interesting aspects of this movie’s plot are that it takes place mainly in one setting, and that no character can really be described as “the good guy.”

Although this could have easily been a play, Tarantino brings such a wonderfully cinematic style, making the movie feel like a classic western from the 60s era. The film never gets boring either, as the violence and verbal sparring between all the despicable characters means there is never a dull moment.

#5 — Mad Max: Fury Road (review by: Vannessa Barnier)

This is perhaps the most talked about film of the year and I somewhat agree with the hype. I would recommend this movie to people who enjoy going to monster-truck events and punching. It’s incredible how nothing actually happens in the span of two hours. Mad Max, the namesake of the film, goes from prisoner to liberator, and drives a large rig back and forth across a great span of wasteland. He doesn’t do this alone, of course. One of Mad Max’s major assets is the strong female lead of Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron. I commend them on the cast, but they left out any people of colour – even if one of Immortan Joe’s wives were a woman of colour, that would have been nice. If you want to watch people drive around barren land for two hours while yelling, watch Mad Max.

#4 — Spotlight (review by: Tomi Milos)

Spotlight was the most self-righteously idealistic movie of the year, and such unapologetic belief in its own morals made it one of the most enjoyable watches of the year.

The film centers around the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team of journalists who unearthed a systemic pattern of child sex abuse by Catholic priests in the Boston Archdiocese.

Marty Baron’s (Liev Schrieber) first instructions to Spotlight as the newly-inducted editor of the newspaper is to speed up its research on locally-sourced stories.

Baron’s encouragement goads the quartet headed by Robby (Michael Keaton) into a  fierce investigation. The ensuing probe into one of the Church’s closely guarded-secrets is thrilling despite the obvious ending and leaves one with the sort of heavy-handed inspiration that probably incited you to crack open a book after watching Dead Poets Society.

Props if you can recognize an unlikely McMaster landmark in a scene that was shot in Hamilton in 2014.

#3 — The Revenant (review by: Joe Jodoin)

Not many filmmakers have as much passion for the art of filmmaking as Alejandro G. Inarritu, and The Revenant is a clear example of film as a work of art. Every single shot looks like a painting thanks to award-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, and every scene is choreographed perfectly to juxtapose the beauty and grit of nature. Inarritu was able to make the film simultaneously beautiful and brutal for the entire two and a half hour run time, and has truly created a visual masterpiece. The film is incredibly made in every other way too, and the acting of Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy especially elevate this film even higher. While not an easy film to watch due to its graphic and realistic violence, even those who don’t enjoy the film will admit to being blown away by the spectacle. This film is truly the definition of epic entertainment, and seeing it in theatres is highly recommended.

#2 — Carol (review by: Bahar Orang)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4z7Px68ywk

Carol Carol icy blue eyes, red-hot-livid-lips, porcelain skin, predatorial in that oversized mink coat and then small and timid as precocious prey with that terrified exhale of ‘I-love-you’. She is motherly, goddess-like, fierce and afraid, graceful and stumbling, large and lean, deep voice and heavy gaze, in awe, in despair, in heaven and in hell. And Carol’s sweet, solemn lover: Therese Belevit ‘flung-out-of-space’ is equally rife with complexity, contradiction, silence and stammer. She is child-like and vulnerable, but strong and complete and falling, unfaltering, forth into that woman, that person, that courageous, calm, clear-eyed, uncloaked, uncraven Carol. And between them: car windows, glass panes, December fog, large mirrors, a camera lens. But through it all their gazes remain on each other, vital and potent and precious and powerful.

The film centers desire: to respect your desires, to listen and tend to your desires is dignified, unshameful, crucial and brave. The film centres women: sometimes, men are dispensable, blundering, tepid and cruel. And finally, the film is a gorgeous relief from that history of fictional gay couples who suffer many a calamity in their pursuit of each other. For two women can indeed fall in love and stay together, dodge tragedy, and imagine a way of being where neither marriage nor age nor dread nor social disdain can define the limits or the levity of love.

Carol will leave you breathless and breathing, fulfilled and voracious; it is cold winter and hot touch; it is stunning, essential cinematographic poetry.

Directed by the masterful Paulo Sorrentino, Youth tells a deeply-affecting story about self-reflection and the yearning for more out of life as it steadily ebbs away.

#1 — Youth (review by: Michelle Yeung)

The film circles around Fred Bellinger (Michael Caine) and Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), two best friends who find themselves among the visitors of a lavish spa nestled in the Swiss Alps. Fred, a renowned and now retired composer, has vacationed here for over 20 years. Mick, on the other hand, steadfastedly works away with a group of young screenwriters to contrive his “final testament.” While Fred is alarmingly apathetic, Mick – not yet ready to let go of his past – continues to blaze towards a perilous dream. The other guests at the resort also seem to be cocooned in their own worlds. Everybody is doing their own thing, but nobody is really doing anything.

The exquisite marriage between the talents of Italian cinematographer Luca Bigazzi and contemporary composer David Lang catapults Youth to another stratosphere of cinematic brilliance. Bigazzi’s lensing is evocative, poignant and a marvel to behold. His compositions are impossibly striking; each shot could be framed and exhibited at a world-class art gallery.

In Youth, the sense of idleness and alienation is eerily compelling. Caine appears in one of the most tender and moving performances of his career, embodying a weathered and guarded man with reservoirs of harbored sentiment he was never able to express.

In the way he crafts his films, Sorrentino is similar to Fred in that he is also a composer himself. There is an eloquent, musical quality to his directing that, when combined with outstanding actors, makes watching his works both an immersive pleasure and a transcendent experience. Youth is cinema at its apex. It is poignant, ravishing and will engulf you like a dream.

Photo Credit: Diane Arbus

By: Hayley Regis

So the Oscar nominations are out, in case you haven’t heard. Despite this being a landmark year for women of colour achieving amazing things — Viola Davis’ Emmy, Serena Williams as Sportsperson of the Year — we are once again reminded that white people are just better at this ‘acting thing’ than we are. I don’t believe that is the case. Lest someone decry me as a reverse racist, let us delve further into this land of celebrating white mediocrity and the black actors who are typecast and fall by the wayside.

Hattie McDaniel was the first black person to win an award for supporting actress. In 1939 she played a character named ‘Mammy’ in Gone with the Wind, a character so laden with racist stereotypes that “problematic” doesn’t begin to cover it. The first time a woman of colour won an award for best actress was Halle Berry, in 2001. The movie Monster’s Ball was about a poor southern woman who falls in love with the prison guard who executed her husband. The movie is described as an “erotic romantic drama,” despite the first sex scene being drunken (i.e. without proper consent) “grief sex.” Despite Berry being fetishized and portrayed as a sex object, her performance was still the only time a woman of colour has ever won best actress.

opinions_thats_reel2

We are no stranger to all-white nominees, especially women, but this year with movies like Straight Outta Compton and Creed, you’d think we would see some recognition for the acting of people of colour, especially considering the success of the films. Creed’s black writer-director Ryan Coogler, and black star Michael B. Jordan, were passed over, while Sylvester Stallone managed to get a nomination for best supporting. Compton didn’t get a nod from the academy, but the Screen Actors and Producers guilds nominated it for best picture. Needless to say this is a problem. We have actors like Idris Elba, Samuel L. Jackson and Will Smith, doing amazing work and someone drags the proverbial white carpet over them.

This year with movies like Straight Outta Compton and Creed, you’d think we would see some recognition for the acting of people of colour.

As Viola Davis said in her Emmy acceptance speech, “you can’t win an award for roles that are simply not there.” How are we supposed to fix the problems with representation, recognition, and general celebrations of people that may or may not be natural blondes? I grew up idolizing Michael Clarke Duncan, and Samuel L. Jackson because they were the only black people I saw in movies growing up. I’ve seen Snakes on a Plane more times than I care to admit, just because he’s in it. He doesn’t look like me, but he reminds me of my dad and his family. That’s the take-what-representation-you-can get mentality I grew up with. I am overwhelmingly saddened by the lack of diversity in this year’s nominations; it seems as if those wishing for a white Christmas had their wishes granted a little bit later this year.

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Porch Stories

Saturday, Oct. 17 at 9 p.m. @ Mills Hardware - Runtime: 73 min. - Rating: 14A  |  Drama

From the director of acclaimed 2004 Hot Docs prizewinning documentary Army of One, Toronto filmmaker Sarah Goodman displays a sure hand with her first narrative feature. Porch Stories captures the intersecting lives of three people. With a strolling camera and beautiful black-and-white cinematography, Goodman perfectly portrays the web of events and overheard conversations that make up the city’s soundscape.

Court

Monday, Oct. 19 at 1 p.m. @ Ancaster SilverCity Cinemas - Runtime: 116 min. - Rating: PG  |  Drama

Winner of top prizes at the Venice and Mumbai film festivals, Court is a quietly devastating, absurdist portrait of injustice, caste prejudice, and venal politics in contemporary India. An elderly folk singer and grassroots organizer, dubbed the “people’s poet,” is arrested on a trumped-up charge of inciting a sewage worker to commit suicide. What truly distinguishes Court is the brilliant cast of professional and nonprofessional actors; an affecting mixture of comedy and tragedy; and the naturalist approach to the characters and to Indian society as a whole, rich with complexity and contradiction.

Al Purdy Was Here

Saturday, Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. @ Mills Hardware - Runtime: 95 min. - Rating: PG  |  Documentary

The story of Al Purdy, Canada’s leading poet, and the A-frame cabin that he built, now being restored as a writers’ retreat. Featuring interviews and performances by artists including Leonard Cohen, Bruce Cockburn, Gord Downie, Gordon Pinsent, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Sarah Harmer, Tanya Tagaq and Joseph Boyden, the film moves between Purdy’s story and the compelling characters bound up in his legacy. Purdy has been called the last, best and most Canadian poet.

Amy

Sunday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. @ Landmark Cinemas 6 Jackson Square - Runtime: 90 min. - Rating: 14A  |  Documentary / Biography

With a voice oft-described as a combination of Billy Holiday, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan, Amy Winehouse was a pop star with soul, a once in two generational musical talent whose appeal crossed cultural and demographic boundaries. As riveting as it is sad, Amy is a powerfully honest look at the twisted relationship between art and celebrity — and the lethal spiral of addiction.

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By: Alex Wilson

The Stonewall Riots are such a significant part of my culture as a Queer person. They provided me with hope and resilience as I was learning how to navigate the heteronormative world we live in. They also gave me Pride, although a very different one from what we see celebrated today.

So you would think, when I heard a movie focusing on the events of Stonewall was coming out this September, I would be ecstatic. I mean really, the Gay and Lesbian section on Netflix is barren. But instead of excitement while watching the trailer I felt infuriated, disgusted, hurt and appalled.

The riots began in response to a particularly brutal police raid on June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York. Rioting and civil disobedience continued through the following nights and a Christopher Street Liberation march was mobilized shortly after. These riots fundamentally changed Queer activism. They started new radical Queer rights organizations like the Gay Liberation Front, the Gay Activists Alliance as well as the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries and launched the modern Queer Rights movement. They also started a culture of Pride in the Queer community, as for the first time people were fighting back en-masse against systemic oppression. This activism was in stark contrast to the assimilative tactics being used before that night.

Stonewall embodied intersectionality. The patrons of the bar were predominantly trans folk, drag queens, self-proclaimed dykes, sex workers, queer runaways, and people of colour. All of these people faced multiple barriers of systemic oppression and Stonewall acted as a space for them to congregate and be themselves. To say that they were only rebelling against Queer oppression would be dangerously false. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a lifelong trans-activist and patron of the bar that night, provided insight into the level of marginalization these folks faced when she told her account of the night.

“When you get in those kind of situations, the first thing you want to do is piss off whatever guard you’re fighting so much that they knock you completely out, then you’ll live another day. They won’t keep beating on you until you don’t live.” The leaders and primary instigators of the rebellion that night were almost all dykes, transwomen or drag queens of colour, that all experienced this degree of marginalization. Yet the film has whitewashed the story and replaced key female roles with those of males to the extent that the protagonist has been made a white-cis-gay male.

Stonewall grounds me in my radicalism, but it also reminds me how privileged I am and how divided the current Queer movement is. We face systemic marginalization and oppression. Granted, this will vary based on the intersection of our identities, but in this way we are different from the hetero-cisnormative culture around us. Stonewall empowers me. Stonewall has helped me be proud of who I am. But, Stonewall has been co-opted by this movie.

The reason behind the blatant transphobia and racism in this movie is what I find particularly offensive. Lesbians, transwomen and sex workers of colour: none of these identities make as compelling of an American Dream narrative as a white cis country boy. This movie is not only contributing to the continued oppression of these groups, but it is erasing them and their role in Queer history. Ignore the fact that without the incredible courage of the people at Stonewall that night Queer history might not even exist.

One of the most troubling aspects of this predicament is that it can easily be put into the larger context of division in the Queer community today. While 2015 especially has been an incredible year for Queer rights, not all Queer folk have been benefiting equally from these strides. Transwomen of colour still face disproportionately high levels of violence—18 transwomen have been murdered in the United States so far this year.

It is the responsibility of more privileged identities in the Queer community to continue to fight. Our movement is founded in the work of transwomen, sex workers and drag queens of colour, and we cannot forget or remove them from it. Stonewall erases these voices in order to commodify this turning point in Queer history. It is appalling and it is certainly not my Stonewall.

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The country’s movie industry was on the brink of collapse in 2011. New import policies on top of three “minor” taxes totalling 23.75 percent, 15 percent revenue tax, and an entertainment tax of 10 to 15 percent shut down any semblance of foreign films in Indonesia. With now only 800 screens for a population of 240 million – in comparison to approximately 2,830 screens for Canada’s 35 million people – the situation would appear dire at first glance.

The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2: Berandal, however, have been the two notable films representing the resilience of the industry. Though the situation is still developing, these two titles have sparked a movement of high quality localized filmmaking in Indonesia that can receive international praise.

The Raid managed to first premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011 – just a few months after the new import policies – to positive reviews such as, “this violent, intense and brilliant bulletfest from Indonesia puts western action movies to shame,” from Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian. This reception from critics was despite a mere $1.1 million budget, a simple premise and setting, and an inexperienced director and cast. The Raid managed to create a lasting impact on viewers through brilliant action scenes involving the traditional Indonesian martial art known as pencak silat. Distribution deals from companies in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Japan, and almost a dozen others allowed the film and Indonesian cinema as a whole to continue its relevance around the globe.

Two Indonesian movies called Sang Penari (The Dancer) and Rectoverso headlined the country’s involvement with prominent screenings at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. This was backed up by Indonesia’s own promotion of 50 other films at the “Indonesian Cinema du Marche du Film” booth.

The Raid 2 premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in early 2014 with a greater emphasis on the story, a $4.5 million budget, and high expectations after the success of the original, and succeeded by obtaining similarly positive reviews. This also includes mentions on multiple critics’ year-end lists including seventh on IMDb’s Top 10 Films of 2014, and tenth on HixFix’s Top 50 films of 2014.

The future for the industry holds a lot of promise. Three actors from The Raid 2 – Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, and Cecep Arif Rahman – have been added to the cast list for J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens for currently unknown roles. Indonesia will also see a new integrated film market called the Equator Film Expo in March 2015 with the newly established Indonesian Film Council as part of a three-year plan to develop the local movie industry.

While Indonesia still has not achieved much international credibility – including the hunt for the country to earn its first Best Foreign Film nomination from the Oscars – the foundation has been laid due to the quality and international attention of The Raid series. Guillaume Catala, a French film producer who co-founded EFX, demonstrated this potential: “Indonesia has the fourth largest population in the world but has very little soft power, so our goal is to build up this industry and give Indonesia a voice.”

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