Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Shake Hands with the Devil

Obviously, Shake Hands with the Devil is worth watching. However, it suffers - albeit not too badly - when we compare it with other films dealing with the Rwandan Genocide (1994).

This movie tells the story of General Roméo Dallaire, a Canadian who led a UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda back in 1994. As the story progresses, Dallaire and his men will become the witness of a genocide. Unfortunately, as he's asked by his superiors not to take any military actions against radical Hutus, he'll gradually become haunted by his experience.

Shot without any style by director Roger Spottiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies), Shake Hands with the Devil is, at best, a succession of images that tries to accurately reconstruct history. At best, Shake Hands with the Devil is a succession of images and scenes that are more faithful to History then one would believe. In fact, it is said in the DVD's special features that most places (from Rwanda) you see are actually places that General Romeo Dallaire has trodden such as the hill on which he delivers a speech to the Rwandan government on the behalf of the United Nations (UN) for instance.

However, the film's historical accuracy is not much of an asset in this case, because the scriptwriter takes for granted that the audience knows what the Rwandan Genocide is all about. How pretentious! Despite being good, Shake Hands with the Devil doesn't possess the depth and simplicity that made Hotel Rwanda, another movie on the Rwandan Genocide, such a wonderful movie. In fact, even if we know that the Tutsis and the Huutus opposed each other during the genocide, the movie doesn't explain the effect of Belgian colonialism in Rwanda's collective psyche. Hence, the importance to know how Rwanda became a country artificially divided by ethnicity.

Hopefully, the sober - and at the same time moving - performance of the cast gives us a good reason to watch the film to the end. As General Roméo Dallaire, Roy Dupuis (The Rocket) manages to astonish us. In fact, his performance illustrates the division between his field team which really wanted to save the Tutsis and the UN's bureaucrats taking decisions without knowing what's happening on the field (ordering Dallaire to take absolutely no action unless being attacked). Thus, the movie leaves us with an interesting political reflection: should UN peace keepers be allowed to take military actions to protect people?

Finally, unlike what we may think, Shake Hands with the Devil is definitely a well-made film. However, had it not been because of the film's hermetic nature, in terms of historical accessibility, the movie would have had a higher rating. Nonetheless, it's a movie that one must watch for the powerful message delivered by the movie.

Rating: 3.5/5

***

Canada (2007)
Length: 112 minutes
Genre: Historical drama
Screenplay: Michael Donovan
Directed by: Roger Spottiswoode
Starring: Roy Dupuis, James Gallanders, Michel Mongeau and Deborah Kara Unger


Monday, July 28, 2008

Treason Is Treason, Period!

Omar Khadr's repatriation from Guantanamo Bay must serve two purposes: judge him as a traitor and deport him along with his family in a non-Western country of their choice.

Of course, the apathy of Stephen Harper, Canada's Prime Minister, towards Omar Khadr may appall many Canadians. Some will say that he was a child soldier and that at the age of fiften years old, one's judgement is not developped enough. Hence, the necessity to bring Khadr back to Canada for a fair trial - whatever this term means to many excessively kind-hearted Canadians.

However, advocating fairness doesn't mean not sticking to the facts!

Should he be rapatriated, Khadr deserves a fair trial, which means seeing our judicial procedures being applied to him. In spite of that, there's nothing Omar Khadr can do to change the final result of his trial.

After all, there's no doubt that he fought alongside the Talibans in Afghanistan against Western forces. By the way, the Talibans are enemy of which countries? Yes, one of these countries is Canada, our country. We see two reasons why Khadr should be accused of treason: not only he fought with our enemies, but he also killed a soldier from an allied nation (the USA) serving in Afghanistan.

Therefore, one can hardly say that Khadr didn't know what he did when he was in Afghanistan. Regardless of the side you belong to, you always want to survive in a war, right? He probably was in a situation of self-defence, but he killed an allied. Therefore, having the Canadian citizenship doesn't grant him the right to assist our enemies.

And guess what, during an interview on CBC a few years ago, Khadr's mom and sisters said that it's normal to do something for Islam no matter what it is!!???!!!

It may look simplistic, but let's bring Omar Khadr back to Canada and above all, let's not be afraid to brand his family of scum bags as traitors and deport them. By the way, this reminds me of something: if you don't like Canada, you may consider going to live in another country. One can't enjoy our civil freedom and hate this country at the same time!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Dark Knight: Remarkable


With this instalment of this generation's series of Batman, director Christopher Nolan leaves us with a dark exploration of human nature.

The movie The Dark Knight actually begins where Batman Begins ended. While the most notorious criminals of Gotham City are trying to kill Batman, a man known as the Joker comes up with a plan to make Batman history. His plan: give Batman an ultimatum to publicly unmask himself and therefore, stop assisting the police led by commissioner James Gordon and Gotham City's newly elected District Attorney, Harvey Dent. However, if Batman doesn't meet the Joker's demands, any given citizen will die per day.

While The Dark Knight begins on a rather interesting note, the movie fights its way through with a few long periods here and there before we come to the moment when the action begins. This means that the movie is unfortunately filled with some useless subplots (talking about Bruce Wayne's life as a business man) that don't necessarily drift us away from the storyline; instead these subplots in question don't manage to be interesting.

However, one may admit that as opposed to Batman Begins, this instalment of the series has a less long periods. Thus, this obviously allows Nolan to get to the story's point without necessarily taking the time to introduce us to the characters.

With such a great margin of manoeuvre for Nolan and his team, we're left with characters that are less bland. Therefore, this allows the movie to actually explore human nature through the characters by surprisingly putting up to date some key characters. For instance, when it comes to dealing with Harvey Dent/Two-Face, the scriptwriters did a great job by deviating from what we saw in the comic books or the animated series. Dent (who doesn't have multiple personalities, this time) embodies an ideal to get rid of virtually all criminals in Gotham City. However, as time goes by, Dent gradually loses faith in his ideal after an accident while Batman and Gordon keep the course. Despite not being a film d'auteur, the film offers a good reflexion: should we follow the law to fight crime or do what we deem necessary?

Without being too philosophical, The Dark Knight is the darkest and the most multi-dimensional hero movie one is likely to see for the characters offer in depth variable answers to the question at the centre of the story.

Speaking about the cast's performance, Heath Ledger's (Brokeback Mountain) performance is top-notch. Obviously, Ledger's Joker (who is far from the one played by Jack Nicholson) is a cross-over between the Joker voiced by Mark Hamill (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back) in Batman the Animated Series who sees crime as his sandlot and a psychopath. His haunting performance shows us that he can inhabit his character. While Ledger surprises us, we can say that the rest of the cast is quite good despite opting for a sober and modest interpretation of their characters.

Finally, anyone who never read the comic books or saw the animated series can still appreciate this movie. In fact, with this movie not only Nolan push the character's development further, but he also finds a way to extricate from the actors a hell of a performance for the sake of the movie's reflexion, especially from Heath Ledger. Nonetheless, while you're still at the beginning of the film, just be patient, because after the action starts, no minute is wasted.

Rating: 4.5/5


***

USA (2008)
Length: 152 minutes
Genre: Crime thriller
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Screenplay by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman and Maggie Gyllenhaal

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Very Distinct (and Backwarded) Television

Quebec's television industry (i.e. the trade unions behind it) needs to open its arms to online streaming once and for all.


Just like my fellow countryman Nicolas Doucet, not only I rarely watch Quebecker TV series. Besides finding too boring most Quebecker TV series, I don't have the time to sit in front of a television to watch it due to my personal schedule. Although our news and public affairs shows can be seen online, our TV industry hasn't adapted itself to nowadays' way of life.

Quebec, unlike English Canada (read: also the whole world), still didn't adopt online streaming to show TV series. Obviously, this lagging is due to the fact that the negotiations between the Union des artistes (UdA) and the Association des de films et de télévision du Québec (AFTQ) didn't come to an end. Needless to say that many people believe that online streaming is the future of television and many channels (especially CBC) understood it.

I may probably repeat (in my own words) what Nicolas and other people wrote in their post, but I do believe that online streaming has more advantages than disadvantages.

The first of them is that online streaming is adaptable to any person's schedule. For instance, during the school year that I just went through, I always didn't have the time to watch The Border (a fictitious show about Canadian counter-terrorism) or jPod (a comedy about video game designers trying to make the most violent video game ever).

Well, guess what? Thanks to CBC's brightness to use online streaming, I could watch these two shows online on any day for free. Besides, the best of it is that I didn't get bothered by useless advertisements! Wow, that's like watching a TV series on DVD without necessarily having it! Isn't that wonderful, guys?

Secondly, online streaming will definitely revolutionize the way a show's rating is calculated. Instead of earning a revenue by counting the number of people who watched any given show on the television (again, you must respect the schedule, must you not?), polling companies will also include the number of people who watched that given show online. And who cares if Internet surfers don't respect a show's schedule, because broadcasting channels can catch up online with people who either: 1) don't have the time to follow a show's schedule (just like me) or 2) just want to watch that show out of curiosity.

Finally, I don't think that Quebecker Internet surfers are against online streaming. If you ask me if I'm surprised that Quebec didn't fully adopt online streaming because of trade unions, well let me tell you that I'm not surprised at all. I just want to hear unionists' arguments about why Quebec shouldn't join the whole world by adopting online streaming...

***

It may be hard for most of you to hear it, but I hardly see Quebec's television as my television even though I was born Quebecker. I'm going to hear some people say that "here in Quebec, we do some good television". There's probably no doubt about it, but how good can it be if it's not legally supported by the Internet? Well, when it comes to television I rather consider English Canada as my television (although it's not my first reflex to think in English). Ouch, I can't believe that I've kept that secret for one year!

Speaking about English Canada, now that I've seen The Englishman's Boy on DVD, I just can't wait to put my hands on the DVD of The Trojan Horse and MVP: The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Tracey Fragments

With its incredible dramatic depth, The Tracey Fragments (2007) doesn't suit for people who are too used to blockbuster movies or Canadians who are drugged to American culture.

This Canadian movie adapted from a novel of Maureen Medved tells the story of Tracey Berkowitz (Ellen Page), a fifteen-year old disturbed girl who comes from a dysfunctional family. Grounded by her father because of her vulgar behaviour, Tracey is compelled to keep her little brother Sonny (Zie Souwand). However, on one cold day, Sonny disappears and Tracey decides to begin a seemingly endless journey in the streets of Toronto to find her brother at all cost.

Obviously, the most beautiful thing about this movie from Bruce McDonald (Roadkill) is the fact that the story begins very quickly. Without a doubt, that is mainly due to the story's structure that can nearly be compared to what we've seen in Pulp Fiction.

Despite looking confusing, Medved's script takes part in a fairly thorough study of Tracey, the main character. Therefore, while we're directly thrown in the action, that is Tracey's search for her brother, we come to understand Tracey. To that matter, McDonald elegantly splits the screen into different fragments of Tracey's memory. These multiple screens showing either Tracey's real life or wildest fantasies allow us to understand how 1) Tracey came to the point of being grounded; and 2) her motives for finding her brother.

As a result of such a remarkable scriptwriting by Medved along with the awesome editing from Jeremiah L. Munce and Gareth C. Scales that took about nine months, we're left with a mostly dark and harsh movie that can somehow be funny at some parts. Above all, The Tracey Fragments also leaves us with a fascinating main titular character that we come to care about no matter how the movie will end. Moreover, that interest for Tracey is also augmented by the unsullied performance by Ellen Page (Juno).

Finally, The Tracey Fragments is one of those movies that every Canadians must be proud of despite the low budget. Of course, it's a movie that is worth a look for its visual elegance and the magnificent performance of the cast strongly led by Page. Besides, as a movie that we watch for the appreciation of cinema as an art, The Tracey Fragments should be put in every Film students' corpus.

Rating: 4/5

***

Canada (2008)
Genre: Psychological drama
Screenplay: Maureen Medved
Directed by: Bruce McDonald
Starring: Ellen Page, Ari Cohen, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos and Slim Twig


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happy Birthday Canada!

Let's wish a happy birthday to Canada! If I had any wish, at this moment, I just wish that it would be a different country from what it is right now. However, let's put aside our political opinions and celebrate our Canadianess. Secondly, my wish is that our country will win the gold in hockey at the Vancouver Olympic games of 2010. Finally, as my tradition wants it, I'll leave you with a 10-questions quiz just to see how well you know Canada. Good luck!


***

1. Which one of these TV shows is the longest running one in Canadian history?

a) Hockey Night in Canada
b) La poule aux œufs d'or
c) Royal Canadian Air Farce
d) The National

2. What is the national drink of Canada?

a) The Molson beer
b) Bloody Caesar cocktail
c) Canada Dry
d) The Alexander Keith beer

3. In 2005, while this movie was acclaimed in Europe, it was censored in the USA due to its relatively explicit sexual content. Which movie are we talking about?

a) Eastern Promises
b) Where the Truth Lies
c) The Tracey Fragments
d) eXistenZ

4. Speaking about hockey recreational leagues, while Quebeckers refer to them as "garage leagues", what term do English Canadians use to refer to them?

a) Car leagues
b) Backyard leagues
c) Hot stove leagues
d) Beer leagues

5. A part from people, music and liquors, what do we normally find in a "Manitoba social", a Manitoban party that has some Ukrainian roots?

a) A skill contest in which participants must not finish last, otherwise they'll have to drink a bottle of vodka in front of everybody.
b) A skill contest in which participants (who wish to do it) must break 12 empty beer bottles with hockey wrist shots.
c) A ticket table at the front door where you can find liquor and raffle tickets.
d) A big cauldron in which the host mix all sorts of beers together so that it will be served at the end of the social.

6. Which Canadian city is nicknamed "Hogtown"?

a) Montreal
b) Halifax
c) Victoria
d) Toronto

7. What does it mean to be "on the pogey"?

a) To be pregnant
b) To be at the summit of a mountain
c) To be living on social welfare
d) To be horny

8. Which Canadian feminist put on the famous satirical play known as The Women's Parliament, or rather Mock Parliament, in 1914?

a) Nellie McClung
b) Emily Murphy
c) Irene Parlby
d) Louise McKinney

9. What is the nickname given to the Canadian Goods and Services Tax (GST)?

a) The Gory-and-Sucky tax
b) The Gauge-and-Screw tax
c) The Gross-and-Snobbish tax
d) The Gross-and-Suicidal tax

10. In the worldwide known Canadian literary classic Anne of Green Gables, written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, in which province does the story takes place?

a) Ontario
b) Prince Edward Island
c) British-Columbia
d) Saskatchewan

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