March Madness & the cinematic soul mate

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Film Festival recap time! No time like the present am I right my friends? Why, yes, thank you for noticing, it is April, and the film festival closed March…11th. Seriously though. What happened to the other half of March? Is this what everyone means by March Madness? Talk about a time warp. It’s like I came home that Saturday night, kicked off my shoes, took a jump to the left, step to the right, and then suddenly it’s April Fools Day. What is this, a joke?

Now that I look back, I really should have taken better notes in order to appropriately capture the immediate responses to the films and events. As per usual it’s a whirlwind of wine, films, cheese and conversation. And so, I present my disjointed, disordered recollection of events.

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Perhaps for you, the thrill of those ten days are long gone. Just dim memories of dark theatres. Or maybe you found a film or two or ten that was like a finding long-time friend or a cinematic soul mate.  Running the gamut of emotion. Feeling all the feels. Welcome to my happy place. Losing yourself in a story and finding your way back by  the film’s end. Witnessing stories unfold, watching characters develop. Love blossoming, bonds breaking. Reunions and departures. Sacrifices and losses. Successes and victories; all the things that lift us up and tear us down. Some films were based on true stories, and while others were works of fiction, the tales still tend to hold a mirror up to our faces. What a privilege to be a part of that shared experience;  to grateful and ashamed for the human condition in it’s entirety. All that empathy, community, catharsis and buttery popcorn…what else in life does anyone need? 

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Over ten days, I caught 15 movies. I ugly cried four times, napped three times, abandoned one movie (ahem, Toni Erdmann) and–more times than I could count–laughed until nearly crying and vice versa. I lost sleep, danced, drank wine. I wore sequins, high heels and red lipstick. Each night I’d nestle in my standard seat with my Frida Kahlo bag filled with blankets, tissues, and other goodies and necessities. Each night I’d feel like all was well with the world.  

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My dear friend and Events co-chair Tanya and I spent a little  quality time at Hotel 540’s Blue. We enjoyed a lot of Privato Pinot Noir, (doing our part for the Flavors & Flicks initiative). We had a glorious brunch and a multitude of mimosas on a snowy Sunday.  Champagne buzzed and hollandaise high, we watched Window Horses, a trippy little cartoon about a young Canadian poet who travels to Iran to perform at a poetry festival.

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That same day, before I, Daniel Blake, we wandered over to PDK café for lattes and donuts with Kirsten Carthew, the filmmaker of The Sun at Midnight. 

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Quick note: congratulations to I, Daniel Blake—for being the first movie of the #KFF2017 lineup to make me ugly cry. It was a real face contorting, heart breaking kind of film.  Following that film, we strolled over to the Noble Pig for ciders and comfort food.

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Though KFF 2017 was drama heavy, there were moments of levity; The Space Between was incredibly heartfelt and good-humored, as was The Grand Unified Theory.

Nothing made me squirm in my seat more than Mean Dreams.  In fact, the Mean Dreams/Land of Mine double feature was a rather intense evening all in all. The Brewing Discussion at Red Collar was cozy, and I was laughing hysterically with my friend Sam on the way back to the Paramount. Suddenly it was young men dismantling landmines in a post-World War II landscape. Within the first few minutes the Commander head-butts someone in the face, which really takes the edge off the hilarity from the walk over.

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After that double feature, the most emotionally impactful evening was Angry Indian Goddesses and Maudie. That was a back-to-back sob-fest. Goddesses‘ preview really leads you to believe that it’s a buddy comedy, and while it is….it really isn’t. Regardless, it was the kind of unexpectedly devastating movies that requires you to just hang out in your seat until the theatre clears up a little. Maudie was equally as dehydrating, a sweet little love story about a most unlikely couple. A despite-the-odds tale about artistic expression. (And the #KFF2017 Audience Favorite!) 

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Weirdos was very nostalgic and sweet. Paterson, while so lovely, it was also like a shot morphine.  Admittedly, I took a little snooze during that one. All those scenes of sleeping and beds only served to augment my exhaustion. I j’adored Ville-Marie. The film within a film was an emotional intersection of humanity at it’s most raw and vulnerable. Monica Belluci’s emotional undoing is a revelation.

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Note, all these years I’ve been said “Monica Bella-lucci” and when filming videos for the festival, Sam, friend and videographer, said “Um no. It’s Bell-uci.” “Oh. Really?” “Yes, really.”  “Well…I prefer Bellalucci.”

After the film ended, I wandered out into the streets, feeling like a chic yet maudlin Montrealer in my green peacoat. Over a solo lunch, sighing deeply while staring out the window of a sushi restaurant watching the snow fall, feeling beautifully blue.

Once the last film credits had rolled, I got a little lump in my throat. It was partly related to 20th Century Women, but as always, it’s that end of an era feeling. The closing of another festival year. There’s so much time spent preparing for it, and suddenly it’s just like popcorn  and discarded ticket stubs on the floor.

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Then, of course, is the party, so you just shirk off your sentimentally for the moment. Chatting all things films, events, and special guests with other partygoers; gin and red carpet photos and shaking it like a polaroid picture on the dance floor. What a way to celebrate another season with all the fabulous film festival folk that helped make such a magical time happen.

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For more information about Kamloops Film Festival refer to the website or follow the link for a detailed account of the #KFF2017 

Photos courtesy of Alicia Ashcroft, Jen Randall Dustin, Robin Phelan & Chris Warner.

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Pinot Noir, Popcorn & Piles of Laundry

The 2016 Kamloops Film Festival has come and gone. Le sigh. There’s so much work and momentum leading up to these all-consuming cluster of events–it’s a whirlwind of film, food and friends–full on red carpet and red wine. So. many. outfits.  Suddenly it’s two weeks later, and you’re alone in your office,  wearing a battered old pink bathrobe on Easter Monday, trying to remember every detail for the #KFF2016 review.

For me, the festival is such a fabulous time of year. I tend to immerse myself in all social aspects of the KFF. I clear my schedule, I rearrange my life, I forsake sleep.  I wind up at the Commodore at 1am, dancing like nobody is watching.  It’s like a holiday in my hometown; a fantastic social explosion. Drinking wine and grabbing meals with other committee members and festival goers. The awesome conversations that transpire in between all those film–the tears, the laughter, loads of red lipstick–pure bliss.

This year being my third, I was able to truly organize myself in a way that made the rest of my life seem perfectly manageable. I had learned a thing or two since the first year.  (See: White Girl Wasted– https://pinuppickspenup.com/2014/03/21/white-girl-wasted/). The morning of A Night with Oscar, I spent some quality time in my closet, selecting a variety of outfits to be worn throughout the entire festival. That’s a highly recommended KFF survival tip, put together ten to fifteen fabulous, and that’s one less thing to worry about. Time is tight, life is short, and you never want to be left wondering what to wear at the last minute.

In fact, I received a impromptu invitation to grab a quick Pinot before watching Holocaust drama Son of Saul. Fugitives running from the law have not moved as fast as I; out of my dog walking clothes, and into a preplanned ensemble, out the door, and drinking wine at Blue with my good buddy Tanya within twenty minutes. That was a real proud moment for me. Organization is key to drinking fabulously!

How those carefully selected pieces gathered height and momentum as they began to pile up over the edge of the bathtub as the festival progressed. Like fabric clockwork expressing the passing of time. Laundry can wait-life is happening right now! Although, the whole devil- may-care approach is super charming when you live alone, but if one has to be a considerate human being to spouses and flatmates. It’s nice to take a quick second to do something considerate and helpful before buggering off…again. Another fun life hack, do a whole bunch of nice things before the film festival begins, and then, make it up to them on the other side of those ten days. Better yet, bring them to a movie, and make it rain at the concession stand that’ll also do the trick.

The first order of business following the festival; besides sleeping, slothing and sorting through enormous piles of laundry–was to sit down for a lengthy lunch with Dušan Magdolen, the KFF Chair and long time friend. I adore Mr. Magdolen, we met a million years ago and our first conversation was about movies.  I saw him after years away overseas, and we talked about movies. His invitation to participate in the planning of the film festival was a total no-brainer. Naturally, it’s completely necessary to discuss all the films together over hot cups of tea.

In the end, I saw sixteen out of the twenty films. As promised, I ditched Darkfest, but did feel a teeny bit of frightful FOMO–especially The Witch, which is ridiculous, in no way do I cope well with scary films.  Due to such high numbers on opening night–they had to open another theatre!-members of the Events team skipped Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World to prepare for the Q&A and the Mingle & Jazz that followed the documentary.  This film was eventually voted ‘favorite’ out of the twenty;  it was a shame to have missed it. Ultimately, it was the best call for the committee members to check on everything one last time, before tucking into delicious appetizers and Pinot Noir at Hotel 540 with our lovely entertainer Cathi Marshall.

The first film I saw wound up being my favorite.  Mustang was a truly powerful story. The last twenty minutes was agonizing. Stressful, thrilling, and perfectly gripping. I sobbed out of sheer relief for the characters by the end.  In fact, I kind of had to lurk in my seat as the credits rolled and audience members milled out of the Paramount. Once feeling composed, I made an attempt to leave, and then wound up jabbering incoherently and tearfully in front of another committee member. Sheesh. Maybe just sit this one out–and avoid eye contact as you hustle off to the car.

I powered through all four films on the first Saturday; which wound up being a day of catharsis. Three out of four films made me cry–including the children’s film Snowtime, which wound up being a total anti-war film.  The child I brought leaned over, “I think something bad is going to happen”–I consoled her, “everything is going to be just fine”, and then something bad happens–to a dog no less. Introducing crying jag #1. Sushi at Sanbiki, and the next movie with my parents.  I love me some Maggie Smith, as did my folks and the rest of Kamloops.  The Lady in the Van had the most audience members, which was perfect, as it was also our Film for a Cause–with the Kamloops Food Bank collecting items at the door.

Following dinner at the Noble Pig; (one of my #KFF2016 haunts) I returned to the Paramount for James White and Youth.  James White was a truly devastating film–and won the Ugly Cry Award for me this year.

Other committee members were quite drained after that film, and decided to call it a night. I felt I had to cleanse the palate a wee bit, end the day on any other note. Youth was beautiful, sensual, life affirming, and quite touching. Jane Fonda shows up at the end and devours her scene. A main character commits suicide, and it’s completely unexpected,  and once again I blubber like a baby in the darkness.

Nothing like a Sunday matinee, except I found Victoria to be a bit of a challenge, and gave me motion sickness. It was a really fantastic production, nearly two and a half hours in one continuous shot, but all the jerky camera movements made me rather queasy.  I briefly entertained the thought of leaving, but managed to hang in there for the length of the movie.

No Men Beyond this Point was my favorite comedy of the season; the actors Patrick Gilmore, Kristine Cofsky and Tara Pratt were delightful during their Q&A. Gilmore and Pratt joined committee members at the Noble Pig, and more Pinot was enjoyed. Who needs sleep??

Born to be Blue and wine with my friend Trish, and My Good Man’s Gone with members of the KFF team. A Q&A with actor Robert Baker, and writer Nick Citton. More wine at the Noble Pig.

A Royal Night Out was another favorite; light, frothy, historically grounded. A simply delightful cinematic experience –Brewing Discussion at Red Collar to follow.

Before Macbeth, Mittz Kitchen with Benjamin for lamb and risotto. Met my brother and his girlfriend for the film.

Macbeth was a really beautiful yet severe picture. Made worse by the man sitting a row ahead of us, shaking a mammoth cup of ice before munching on it during the quietist parts of the movie. It was infuriating to the point of hilarious, and being overtired, it gave me the giggles, and I had to leave the cinema. I came back and Lady Macbeth was dead. Perhaps she died from all that infernal ice crunching, who’s to say?  Wine-ing Discussion at Hotel 540 afterwards, made the humbling mistake of approaching former TRU professor Connie Brim, and exposing just how long ago I studied Shakespeare. The table collectively exchanged notes about acts and scenes that were cut or altered, speeches that were shortened, changes to classic characterization. And me, like a deer in the headlights–totally not remembering much about the play, and thusly having little to contribute. When in doubt just say…”Does…everyone like…wine?”, and then back away slowly, and read the Macbeth synopsis on your phone.

(This is the actual moment being captured by photographer Jen Randall Dustin, this guy is on a hilarious rampage about the adaptation, and he is slaying Connie Brim–brilliant Shakespeare expert–with his witty repartee. And I’m all……”I like the Fassbender when he comes out of the water”.

Thursday Double Feature, Oscar winner Son of Saul, a grim and heartbreaking Holocaust drama and Ben’s At Home, a light independent comedy of little consequence. Donuts and warm beverages at PDK afterwards.

A note about the food: there was so much delectable numminess throughout the festival; and I was smack dab in the middle of a clean-eating, weight loss program.  Beyond the Pinot Noir, my official #KFF2016 beverage, I was not participating in the snacking at any of the events…with the exception of a partial sugar -coated donut that I had in my purse for my husband. Walking back to the car, I reached into my bag and took one big massive bite out of the pastry, a la a Black Widow chomping off the head of her mate. Without missing a step, the donut was out of my bag, chomped into a sugary horseshoe and was thrust back in my bag, my pace quickening as I licked sugar off my lips. No regrets!

Final Friday of the festival, Kamloops Art Gallery for samples of Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs, before seeing a film about his life. Followed Eadweard with Pinot Noir and Green curry at Mittz Kitchen and gin and Karaoke at the Central with special guest Meisha Lowe, photographer Jen Randall Dustin, and ladies of the Events Committee, Tanya and Nathalie. We took Bohemian Rhapsody to a whole other level, and it was glorious.

I came home at midnight and then proceeded to reorganize my whole life. Drunkenly cleaning one’s home is a highly recommended activity. It makes the act of cleaning popcorn kernels out of every purse you’ve ever owned a real hoot and a holler. Pump up some sweet jams, and take on at least a dozen tasks at the same time. It’s also an unbelievable delight to wake up to. This is a legitimate #KFF2016 life hack. #Cleanwhiledrunk.

I caught the first Saturday matinee, Anomalisa; the Charlie Kaufman penned animated feature. I didn’t love it as much as I expected to…and there was a very thorough sex scene that had some…ahem, audible qualities, that was cringe worthy at best.

I skipped Embrace the Serpent and the Painted Pony Steeping Discussion to spend some time with my dog Bluebear–(a shout out to my husband, who was in Vancouver for closing, who had taken care of so much during the festival).

Saturday night: sushi at Oriental Gardens and Forsaken with my mother and two aunts.

After the movie, I scuttled over to Hotel 540 for the Closing Night party. More Pinot to be had! The James Welsh Band was a seriously groovy musical group. All in all, a perfect celebration with the marvellous #KFF2016 committee.

Once all duties were over, and the crowd gave way to the late evening, I danced the rest of the night away; finishing the festival as I tend to do–at the Commodore.

Falling asleep at 4am, another festival finished;  a head full of cinematic stories, a belly full of wine, and a pile of laundry higher than the Himalayas.

For more information of the Kamloops Film Festival, check out the website: http://www.kamloopsfilmfest.ca/

 

Photos Courtesy of Jen Randall Dustin , Chris Warner & the  fine folks behind the Internet.

 

 

 

 

 

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Downward Facing Dog Gone Girl

The 2015 Kamloops Film Festival has just come and gone; this piece was featured in the festival insert that accompanied the Kamloops This Week…without further ado, the extended and Pin-Up-ized version of the article…

Award season is in full swing; and the social media news-feeds are filled with tidbits from these congratulatory evenings that pulsate with fevered anticipation, glittery gowns, and talented performers who are spray tanned within an inch of their life. ‘What are you wearing?” “Who are you here with”? “Are you excited?” “Nervous?” And my question if I were granted court: “When was the last time you had a sandwich?” Of course these people are excited. Number one: if you’re walking that red carpet, dripping in diamonds and adjacent to a bulging three hundred pound bodyguard named Rocco—you’ve made it. You’ve been a part of a significant project, and it’s now being clustered into an exclusive group of significance and a lucky few receive a holy trinket as a result.


But seriously, win or lose, that’s a pretty solid way to spend an evening. Coiffed to perfection, you are privileged to wear jewels and couture, rubbing elbows with wealth, talent and celebrity; swag bags would have gold dipped M&M’s and the champagne fueled after-party people watching would be Olympic level greatness. As it is happening, and in the days that follow, the event and its participants are neatly categorized by the media under: best/worst/memorable/uncomfortable; the hits, the misses. I can’t help but think about the people behind the flops. Who are the people behind the choices? Like…who approved Bjork’s swan dress?

The late 80’s scandal magnet Rob Lowe singing Proud Mary with Snow White?

Who was the guy who pitched Anne Hathaway and James Franco as Oscar hosts? Seriously?

Fact is things hit as often as they miss—sometimes you don’t know why, sometimes you wonder why no one foresaw the future flop–but sometimes the miss evolves into something spectacular in retrospect, and falls under the best category of all–“so bad it’s good” .Rob Lowe + Snow White x “Proud Mary” = The Greatest Thing to Ever Happen to Me. If only something tossed Lowe a saxophone so he could play a la Billy Hicks from “St Elmo’s Fire”, it would have lifted the bar a fair bit.

This performance was so bad that the Academy received strongly worded letters from the likes of Paul Newman and Julie Andrews. Ouch. I just hope I never screw up so badly that I get a strongly worded letter from Mary Poppins.  Perhaps I can comfort my collection of small failures with the sentiment.

It also says something about formulas for success. I can only imagine the late 1980’s executives in their boardrooms, jacked on cocaine and ego clapping each other on the back for these ‘excellent’ ideas. “People love Rob Lowe. People adore Snow White. People can’t resist bastardizing the lyrics to “Proud Mary” with clever cracks about dwarves. What if we threw it all in a great big blender…how smooth would that go down?” Hey—I like fish and I like ice cream, but it doesn’t mean I want to combine the two. In my experience as an event coordinator, I constantly obsess at the near mathematical combination of time of day/day of week/point in year in combination with financial climate/theme/location…and all the details in between. Most importantly, “Who am I catering to?” “What gets people off the couch and out the door? “Why should they get a babysitter?” “Why should they make the time?” Socialization is hard work—at least the idea of it is. I feel like participating in dinner parties or social occasions is like exercise. You don’t feel like doing it, and then you do it and maybe it starts off painfully, and then…you’re just running—smiling, cheeks flushed, wind in your hair, and heart pounding mightily in your chest. You’re glad you tried it. You feel better for having done it. Still, you need to get moving to get that feeling. And that, as everyone knows is the hard part.

So…who are you? What do you want? What do you want in a party or event? What kind of music? What would you eat? Drink? What would make you want to stay? Want to go? The mind reels, right? Do you even know what you want? You want that freshly exercised feeling without the pain. I know I do. Whenever I have a hand in the planning of an event, it always comes with a touch of heartburn and crippling self-doubt. If I planned an event that suited me, there’d be nothing but cheeseboards, bread, mellow lighting, and comfortable seating,  listening to the CBC at a moderate level while waiters who looked like George Clooney handed out free drinks and lingered while making eye contact. But hey, that’s just me.

Also, planning takes time, and when you don’t have time—you are up a creek without a paddle. I don’t know about you, but I personally have the ability to overload my schedule in the same way a prison inmate or a university student would load up their plate at a buffet on a cruise ship. Always, always, always room for dessert, and maybe more mashed potatoes. Heaping spoonful’s of absolutely everything—YOLO y’all, YOLO. Sleep is for babies and great things can be achieved if you make that the thing to take off the plate. It kind of makes you like a circus performer who rides a unicycle and balances plates on sticks…except you are drunk, experiencing vertigo and only have one leg. Oh. And you are on fire. In the thick of film festival preparedness, beyond my demanding career, I was also participating in a thirty-day yoga challenge. Then, just for fun, my husband and I got a new puppy. We named her ‘Bluebear”, which is Latin for “Nothing will ever be achieved in a timely manner again”.

With my e-mail inbox fuller than a Kardashian’s pout, Bluebear’s need for attention at an ‘11’ on the puppy scale, I was at a breaking point: downward facing-dog-gone-girl. This furry little toddler was gnawing away at my spare time like the carpet in the living room; prevention had no point, she was destroying the fabric like it was her mission from God. I had one afternoon to myself, and was bent on catching up. I ran an errand with the dog on the passenger seat. The radio playing low and the pup resting her head peacefully, and me…just driving for 45-minutes basking in the quiet. Eyes narrowed on the road—like a fugitive from the law—just a couple of procrastinating bandits–she the Thelma to my Louise. “Let’s just keen going Blue–let’s just drive until we run out of road”.

My phone rings, my husband’s voice over speakerphone sounding concerned. “Where are you—I’m waiting for you to come home, I was going to take the dog”. “I’m just driving!” I say, laughing, my own voice teetering on the edge of madness—sounding as incredulously giddy and nonsensical as if I had just said: “I just walked on the moon in ice skates, good thing I had my sunglasses! I just had Justin Bieber’s baby—I didn’t even know I was pregnant, I’ve never even heard his music! Charlie Sheen is doing Shakespeare in the park—and he makes a wonderful Juliet!!” Okay then…time to stop driving. This is like 2008 Britney Spears behind the wheel with a baby on her lap kind of crazy.

Once home, both husband and the puppy out of sight, the opportunity presented itself to work alone in the sanctity of my office. I faced the email onslaught with the intensity of Rocky dashing up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art once he’s finally in fighting form. One by one, the emails are answered and filed or deleted, the pressure lessens, a new to-do list is born.

Why do this? Every volunteer has full plates of their own: families, jobs, responsibilities and yet they save room on the dish for the film festival. We do it because we are film-lovers who love film-goers. We like to put all these pieces together, and create a special experience for our community. No greater joy than to sit back and watch others enjoy; like the matriarch in a multi-generational family watching everyone devouring the meal she spent the day making: feasting, tasting, laughing—satiated by your own loving efforts. It makes balancing it along with the yoga challenges, puppy problems, and time constraints worth the while. To participate in a committee like this is to invest your time in creating a special, cathartic, emotional, entertaining and fabulous chain of events. It’s a cinematic holiday in your daily life where film-goers gather to love movies together. It’s worth the lost sleep and increased intake of Tums.

Why the film festival? To me, it’s one of my favourite times of the year. This Netflix age—much precious time is spent looking for “something good”. And then—you finally make a selection, only to lose interest in the first 15 minutes. And so—the journey continues, trudging the path of indecision in the land of endless choices. The issue is of timing and context. It’s the dilemma of film’s purpose—entertaining vs. edifying. Let’s be honest, life can take some pretty dark turns: disease, divorce, war, poverty, the way toddlers have a better i-Phone than you and are so technologically adept that they could very well be the Sony Hackers. There are many serious, important, controversial films that hold a mirror up to history, to humanity—and I have never seen them. Simply because there never seems to be a good time to experience the breakdown of a marriage, the death of a loved one, the atrocities we afflict on others on large and small scales in the comfort of your own home. It never goes well with the end of a long work week, a ratty oversized hoodie and a plate of Chinese food on your lap. If nobody minds, I’d like to keep it so light that the movie could practically float away.

Though in my defense, I am a true sap, an empathetic cinematic sponge that is inflicted with whatever ailment haunts the characters within. My husband has said on more than one occasion: “You know this movie isn’t actually happening to you…right?” Of course I know that…but it could, and being reminded of life’s fragility whilst my fingers are tunneling through a bag of buttery popcorn is as bad a combo as Snow White and Rob Lowe. It makes me think of last year’s beautiful “The Broken Circle Breakdown”, which is quite possibly the most devastating film I’ve ever seen. That’s a kind of film that you watch once, die inside a little and then never again. It does such an exceptional job at bringing you into the heartache, like a 3-D effect, that it hurts way too much to repeat.

With that in mind, it makes you want to polish off too many margaritas and watch a Cameron Diaz movie on a Friday night. Sure, you watch it ironically, and it’s the cinematic equivalent of taking a cabana boy as your lover on holiday. You wouldn’t bring it home with you, but it’s good for the night. But one cannot live off of twenty year olds named Pedro and “Bad Teacher” alone. You need to see the poetry of the human experience in its full breadth: the best/worst/memorable/uncomfortable; the hits, the misses. There are so many excellent emotional cinematic efforts that would pass you by if you avoided the film due to its emotional weight.That’s the beauty of the film festival. It’s a safe place. It is an adventure. It’s a little bit dignified; it’s a social community event. You’re out in public, so odds are your bra is still intact and not carelessly flung onto the kitchen table in the decisive—“Not leaving the house ever again” kind of way. Whether it’s a comedy, a tragedy or somewhere in between—it’s something outside of the norm, outside of your comfort zone. You’re surrounded by empathetic film goers, who share the same doubts, fears, concerns, and who also quiver in the chill of life’s dark shadows; who want to laugh whenever possible, who want to talk about the minor details over a cup of tea afterwards. In the darkness, the group becomes one collective heartbeat, muted observers glimpsing into the lives of others, at the light that shines through the cracks. And you know that you are not alone.

Images Courtesy of Google

White Girl Wasted

Following the 18th annual Kamloops Film Festival, my immune system crashed like they thought the internet would following Y2K.  Sick over Spring Break. That’s like getting a giant school project assigned at the last minute when your plan was to sleep in, watch day-time television, ride bicycles, and lounge lazily in the sun. This is like the time I pinched a nerve in my neck when I was eight, and had to spend an entire weekend looking over my shoulder to stare out the window.

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I knew this sickness was coming, I could feel it’s shadow creeping over my sinuses.  I was working hard to prevent it’s viral blossoming–wheatgrass, acidophilus, as much rest as possible, but with the festival came late night after late night.  I’m no spring chicken, you know.  I need my eight hours.  I was dodging this plague like a fugitive from the law.  By closing night, fueled by gin and tonics (with plenty of lemon and lime, just for that hit of Vitamin C), I took that dance-floor like a death row inmate takes his final meal.

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As a rule, I don’t generally take dance-floors by storm anymore.  But back in the mid 2000’s…well let me tell you, I could bust a move to Destiny’s Child with the best of them, party until four am, and be at work the next morning like it was no big deal.  We celebrated opening night by following Oil Sand Karaoke–a fascinating mash-up about a Karaoke contest and the Albertan oil sands…with a Karaoke party of our own. Ignited by the spirited renditions of Meatloaf, Bonnie Tyler, Stevie Nicks, Tom Jones and Reba McIntyre…the sound-technician says right before midnight: “We’ve got two more minutes…do we have time for some Journey?”  Be still my heart. There’s always time for Don’t Stop Believing.  It was the perfect way to end that portion of the night.  Afterwards, a select few hit the town and continued with the cocktails. I’m like Romy and Michelle on the dance-floor filled with festival guests and curling enthusiasts from Kamloops’ simultaneous event,  The Brier Cup. My friend Mallory and I were in the somewhere in between denial and acceptance of looming early work days as the clock ticked well into the morning.  When the company, the music, and the vibe is this good, you’ve just got to cut loose like nothing will ever be that good again.

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Heading home at a late night hour, listening to the cab driver talk about the Film Festival and the Briar Cup, and all the folks he’s had in his backseat that night.  He drops a term that I need him to back track on.    According to Urban Dictionary, “White Girl Wasted” is more a cocaine related verb as in: “With this pile of cocaine, I’m going to get ‘White Girl Wasted'”.  The cab driver was meaning it more like teenage girl on prom night.  Healthy portions of giddy and sloppy, with just a dash of hysteria.  Not me, of course, I am the Audrey Hepburn of intoxication.

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Oddly enough he was referring to himself, and how he likes to party.  Apparently ‘white girl wasted’ is where it is at, it’s the crown jewel of good times, the Paris Hilton of partying.  The imitation that came from the non-white, non-intoxicated (I hope), non-woman was giggle inducing.  “Haha, WGW”, I chortle, attempting to make some kind of catch phrase and hip gang sign, but most likely looking like I had cerebral palsy.  “Er, what does that stand for?”, the cabbie asks.  “Uh…White Girl Wasted?” I respond.  Holy shit…did I just hallucinate that entire conversation? What was in those G&T’s? “Oh, heh, heh, yeah, right…WGW”, he chuckles, pulling into the driveway.   The trouble with me is that I’m too sophisticated, fabulous and complex that even the most perceptive cab drivers don’t understand me.

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If I’ve learned anything from Journey, it’s that for a smile you can share the night, that some will win, some will lose, that some were born, simply to sing the blue.  Still, no matter what happens, don’t stop believing and hold on to that feeling.  It’s a nice, uptempo reminder that better days are right round the corner.  When the long days of winter grind you down, the lack of light calcifies over the bright light inside of you, it’s nice to be reminded that you can actually be a whole whack of fun.  Sassy, wisecracking, fearless, flirtatious, adventurous are just some of the personality traits I can offer.  I am trying to clutch on to these feelings as this sickness colonizes my body.  Alas, never one to be totally bored during an illness, I make a point to surround myself with warm blankets, hot cups of honey laden tea, expensive orange juice, boxes of tissue, a stylish pashmina draped round my throat and of course, “cinema comfort food “. Well worn personal film favorites, that sometimes just play in the background as you snooze, doze, or just pant feverishly like a dog after running on a hot day.

My go-to cold and flu list is as follows:

  • Waitress
  • Annie Hall
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
  • Amelie
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Before Sunrise/Before Sunset
  • Julie and Julia
  • Dreamgirls
  • Out of Africa
  • A Star is Born (1976)

Give me cheese, give me music, give me a happy ending, give me a sad ending, but no guns or car chases please.  This time, having just come off of the film festival track, (seven films in ten days) I opted to curl up with CBC 2 and a good book.  When the illness refused to budge, I went to the place that I dread most.  The walk-in clinic.  A most vile place.  A line up begins more than an hour before the clinic opens, and once inside, it is a cluster of coughing, sneezing, wheezing, hacking patients, noisy children squawking over 100 Huntley Street on the TV in the counter.  Horoscope disclaimer on the other telly: “not meant to replace intelligent decision making”.  The receptionists are unhurried, sipping Diet Coke at 9:15am, eating cookies and wiping their hands on their zip up hoodies.  This place is enough to make you sick.  When I return for my appointment later in the afternoon, I come prepared for a wait.  Wearing sunglasses and a large coral scarf, I brought an enormous juice, cough lozenges, tissues and a well-loved copy of “Eat, Pray, Love”.

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I hate to admit how much that story has influenced my life.  A copy of the book was given to me before Oprah got her hands on it, right when my fiance and I were dismantling our relationship and upcoming wedding.  That book tapped into a very primal urge. I too have a wandering soul, and hunger for self reflection; this need to move forward, this desire to look back.  In devouring of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, and through writing of my own, I made the decision to travel.  During that time overseas, I read and reread the book, underlining passages, and drawing conclusions about my own life through her experience.  Having read Eat, Pray, Love a number of times at different advents of my life, I saw it from a number of perspectives.  This past week has been the perfect time to re-re-re-read the primary source.  Now much closer to the age that Gilbert was when the book started, I see new similarities in our personalities, namely the deathly fear of motherhood equaling the death of adventure. But the true lesson of EPL is that despite the travel theme, that the answers have been inside of you all along, it’s all very Wizard of Oz.  If only at the end of a personal disaster you gain a greater sense of self…well, that’s better than nothing I guess.  A book deal to pay for the trip would also be an acceptable consolation prize.

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Like Gilbert, I met my husband on my journey of self-discovery and followed it with a years-long struggle with immigration.  She wrote a sequel called Committed, about how immigration issues forced their hands in marriage.  I read the book before we arrived in Canada and it was scarier than a Stephen King novel.  The longer the waiting process, the more limitations placed on you, all that effing paperwork….unraveling patience of a wandering soul.   What a way to take the edge of a happy ending Liz Gilbert. They traveled extensively while awaiting word from Immigration, we waited in Canada, unable to leave the country until the verdict was given.  And then when we were given the green light, the finances simply weren’t there to get back out on the road.   What I would give for the time and resources to travel the world and report back in colorful prose to the masses. I could eat all the pasta in Rome, detox in India and peruse Balinese marketplaces with Javier Bardem, and live to tell about it.  I would accept a pay cheque for that.

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For all intents and purposes, the film festival was like a little holiday: a whirlwind of parties, engrossing films, interesting guests, endless conversations about how we each relate to the stories of others.  One of those nights I heard someone ask aloud “How many times do we live?’–perhaps on the last night, when hipsters in nerdy sweaters were rolling on what looked like some rather exceptional Ecstacy.  One girl rubbed her lips on my cheek, knocking out my vintage earring breathing “Life. Is. Endless” all over my skin.  “Mmmm”, fastening the earring clasp I respond like I’ve a bad taste in my mouth but don’t want to offend the hopeful chef wearing an apron and a heart on their sleeve.  This is not the time to talk about the end of things.  Of course there’s only one physical life of indeterminate years, but to the film lover, you can have a thousand lives.  You can also get glimpses into the future, into the past, over the fence, into other eras, relationships and continents.  If a story is told convincingly, you can escape your body completely and experience this whole other life, gain a whole new perspective on our very existence.

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Following Oil Sands Karaoke film was Sex After Kids, with special guest Paul Amos.  The movie got huge laughs, and was a festival favorite.  In the Q&A that followed, Amos talked about the grassroots project–the film was financed by donations, scenes were filmed in everyone’s homes, actors used their own children, and shared their own experiences of life after baby. As a childless woman in her early to mid 30’s this movie was more slightly horrifying than humorous. Faithful readers know that pregnancy and motherhood is a sticky, oft-discussed subject within the walls of this blog.  To me Sex After Kids did for parenthood, what Before Midnight did for marriage; it’s well written reflection of this particular chapter in the human experience.  A transformation that one can not anticipated until this little bundle of joy lands in your lap.

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As I was heading to the lobby I saw a heavily-pregnant woman, rubbing her belly and frowning in thought.  I fought the urge to approach her and ask “Are you like totally freaking out right now? I’m freaking out and I don’t have a seven pound fetus pushing on my bladder right now.”  They should show that movie to teenagers in sex education.  Not so funny now is it?  I’ve traveled with my husband and his sister as ‘Team Childless’, and we’d laugh merrily at all the things we would never do as parents.  If this movie taught me anything, it is that children bend your tree branches until they snap like twigs.

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The closing night film That Burning Feeling had a similar thread of a fresh, modern, urban–a very funny, heartfelt comedy about promiscuity, sexually transmitted infections and the deliberate humanizing of our night stands.  Director Jason James was a delight as our final guest of the season.

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Le Weekend was a British comedy about a marriage in it’s thirtieth year; a weekend in Paris, where they honeymooned three decades prior.  The husband is struggling with forced retirement, a restless wife and is confronted by the wild successes of a former schoolmate–the deliciously smug Jeff Goldblum.    The Past (another film set in my beloved Paris) was infidelity, divorce, secrets, lies, a suicide attempt and a coma…which culminated in a rather unsatisfying ending.  What does it even mean? Did she squeeze his hand, what does it mean that he stayed in the hospital room? Is he choosing his new life? I’m not sure I get it…I’m not sure I care. Finding Vivien Maier was so interesting it needs a blog all it’s own.  Gloria was an excellent film, and we followed the viewing with a coffee shop discussion, which was jammed packed with guests.  Gloria was…a rather erotic film.  Surprisingly so.  Like…full frontal.  Audible passionate kissing noise, which had the same allure of an obnoxious date masticating with his mouth open. Lengthy scenes of intimacy which is a kin to walking in on your grandparents making love.   Talk about fifty shades of grey. Still, you had to love this smartly dressed “woman of a certain age” (mid-fifties divorcee), singing along to the radio, who gets her hands on some marijuana and a much older lover.  Her heart gets broken, and she takes that pain to the dance floor–girlfriend doesn’t even need a plane ticket.

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The Broken Circle Breakdown came early in the film line up, but I felt it necessary to mention it last as this piece will overshadows the rest of the list.  This film was magnificent.  There was not a dry eye in the house at film’s end.

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The story seamlessly shifts back and forth between a new love, marriage, parenthood, illness, loss, despair and the deterioration of a once great love…all amid a gorgeous musical collaboration.

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As the social media maven of the film festival, I had come to know all the movies well, occasionally stumbling upon some major spoilers. Spoilers don’t bother me too much, I like to be prepared.  I often check in with IMDb for content details, especially in regards to potentially violent films.  This was born after I was Rob Roy’d, thinking this was a Robin Hood-eque Liam Neeson vehicle, and suddenly Jessica Lange is getting raped on the kitchen table by Tim Roth and is then sobbing and bathing herself in the river in the aftermath.  I’ve also been Sean Penned, and it’s not something I recommend.  It’s not like me to like surprises.  I’m what you call “cinema sensitive”, I absorb the suffering like a sponge.

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I stumbled upon the mother-load of spoilers for The Broken Circle Breakdown, and went to the cinema armed with knowledge, and a shitload of tissues. Actually it was a wad of toilet paper that I wrapped like a thick bandage around my hand before stuffing the whole lot in my purse.  I did leave a no-spoilers warning on the Facebook page, gently suggesting that you bring something other than your sleeve for this event.  No matter.  By the end of this heart-wrenching feature about the deterioration of a once happy life, complimented by goose-bump inducting blue grass performances.  There’s something about crying in public that makes me feel terribly vulnerable…as it’s never as simple and elegant as a single glistening tear rolling down your cheek.

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…this was more like…funeral crying.  Snotty sobs, gasping for air, lips sputtering.  It’s something I prefer not to do publicly, which is quite difficult as I cry about as often as a new-born baby.  It’s not an attractive look in the slightest.  The toilet paper reserves were dwindling as the movie was jam-packed with emotional land-mines.  I had get creative by folding the sopping wad like origami, as if to make it like new.  Eventually I just sobbed into my scarf.  It reminded me of this time the airport–on my way to New York, a trip once slated celebrate my upcoming wedding with my maid of honor. Standing outside of the departure gate, in what turned out to be one of the last times I spoke to my fiance:  “I just keep thinking that you’ll change your mind”…I whispered, eyes cast on the ground, a volcano threatening to burst.  He smoothed the hair off of my face, smiled tenderly and said “…I won’t”.  I made it to the plane in the same way you drive all the way home, and realize you don’t actually remember driving.  Once in my seat, I was more unglued than Blanche Dubois in “Streetcar Named Desire”.

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Sunglasses firmly in place.  Airport napkins balled in a tight fist.  Planes are not a recommended place for a potential nervous breakdown.  There is little to do, and nowhere to go.  Sitting frozen. Staring out the windowThere’s something about sobbing in a airplane washroom that just takes depression to another level.  There’s also your neighbour to consider: the  poor woman next to me, was settled into a good book and blissfully unaware.  This a perfect metaphor for that inescapable sensation of grief–the crushing weight–the Alice in Wonderland outgrowing the Rabbit house.  Nowhere to hide from the hurt.  From this moment forward nothing will ever be the same.  This new reality is so much bigger than your earthly body that it threatens to burst right through your skin; an explosion of teeth, bones and tears and all that pain you felt would fill the room like a noxious gas.  Instead you calmly make paper cranes out of cocktail napkins as your broken heart seeps out of your eyes and nose.
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Viewing The Broken Circle Breakdown in the cinema was a transformative experience, one I would be reluctant to repeat.  Still, it was my favorite movie in the festival.  It did an agonizingly convincing job detailing how the clashing of ideals and the testing of faith can turn the tide.  How marriage vows– promises you made when life was good and love was easy can be irreparably broken by exterior forces.  That sickness ruins, that love is not a cure.  When the film ended, the credits were rolling and I was still sobbing as others were reaching for their coats.  The storyline jumped to the beginning, middle and end so fluidly, tattooed songbird Elise unravels, as pragmatic Didier tries and fails to save his wife and child.  It’s nearly too much to bear. Though I knew the twist in the ending, I was properly devastated nonetheless.  Everyone mingled in lobby afterwards, puffy eyed and sniffling.  Catharsis at it’s finest.  It certainly garnered a very large glass of wine in a dark bar afterwards, where stories were shared, and new levels of understanding occurred.  This is the power of cinema, the shared experience of a story;  how it reminds us of our own battles, fears, desires, and memories that shape us as unique individuals.  All is not lost, as the light dims on another day…  the band plays on regardless, even if the song no longer means the same thing.

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All Images Courtesy of Google