Sunday, 10 March 2013

CLOUDBURST - Thom Fitzgerald's exquisite new film is playing theatrically all across Canada with the fantastic support of indie cinemas and smaller chains across the country, but NO real support from the supposedly all-Canadian exhibition chain (with a virtual monopoly - ahem - I mean, market share) Cineplex Entertainment. This is yet another example of Cineplex Entertainment's - ahem - stellar support of Canadian Cinema. If you have not yet seen CLOUDBURST - NOW IS THE TIME!!! Below find current playdates, a rave review of the film and some thoughts about how Cineplex Entertainment might deliver even more playdates for this and other Canadian films.

Oscar Winners Olympia Dukakis & Brenda Fricker
Here is a complete list of CLOUDBURST playdates across Canada. 
You have NO EXCUSE to miss this TERRIFIC Canadian MOVIE with BIG STARS, and a GREAT STORY from a GREAT DIRECTOR. 

TORONTO: Playing until March 14 at The Carlton Cinema
SUDBURY: Playing until March 14 at Rainbow Cinemas
PETERBOROUGH: Playing March 18 at Galaxy Theatres
WATERLOO: Playing March 26-27 at Princess Cinema

YARMOUTH: Playing until March 14 at Empire Cinemas

VANCOUVER: March 15 - April 1 at Vancity Theatre

EDMONCHUCK: Playing until March 13 at Metro Cinema
"Metro" is a nice Ukrainian first-name.
Special note to Ukes in Edmonchuck:
Prove how progressive your kind has become.
See the movie at Metro Cinema.
Name your first-born male child Metro.
Name your first-born female child Olympia.
(Greeks brought Christianity to Ukraine, after all)

The delightful maniacs at the lovely Mayfair Theatre in Ottawa posted this humungolicious poster of my original review in their front window.

Please note, HOWEVER: There is only ONE date on the aforementioned list at a theatre from the Cineplex Entertainment chain, a supposedly all-Canadian company with a virtual monopoly over exhibition in this country.

Cloudburst is a THEATRICAL feature. More importantly, it is a Canadian theatrical feature - and, I might add a commercial one. Alas, Canada's major exhibitor Cineplex Entertainment, rather than displaying the sort of vision I used to take pride in Canadians having, has scuttled into the unimaginative, lazy realm of American-styled notion of biggest return for least investment (and work - God forbid the rich from working). If Cineplex displayed even a pubic hair's worth of vision that Canadian independents and smaller exhibition chains have displayed, we could actually have something resembling a far more successful and vibrant THEATRICAL industry of feature film.

For films like Cloudburst (and many others) television, PPV, VOD, etc. are the LAZY WAY of exhibiting THEATRICAL FEATURE FILMS. They need a decent theatrical life to begin with - THEN everything should follow. The Americans (both distribution and exhibition) are rolling over independent and foreign films on their tummies and freely offering up the respective prostate glands of indie product to TV, PPV, VOD instead of WORKING for a living (which theatrical exhibition truly is).

Canadian feature films are at an even bigger disadvantage. If one TRULY STUDIES the history of exhibition and distribution in this country (as I and those who I can count on two hands have done), the cold, hard facts are that cinema in Canada, most notably English-language Canadian cinema didn't ever have a proper chance to get on its feet. My argument is not specifically to do with financing, but proper exhibition of Canadian films. Cineplex Entertainment can more than afford to do it, but it takes someone in the organization to do it properly with a decent budget to LOSE MONEY to eventually MAKE MORE than they could have imagined.

Our brave boys in World War I, whose corpses fertilize Europe, were the real spirit of Canada. That spirit seemed to die on those battlefields while the Status Quo who sent them to die in the first place, insidiously and slowly pulled the strings of both government and visionary entrepreneurship to make a lot of money for the very few.

Screw the Canadian people.

Screw Canadian Culture.

Screw Canada.

I blame Canadian producers, too. Those who are led to the trough could care less and all the rest are quivering in their boots to do anything about this. Nothing's going to change until EVERYONE in this industry marches into Chair Phyllis Yaffe's office at Cineplex Entertainment (or perhaps the office of the company's head film buyer Michael Kennedy), occupies it and chants incessantly, "I'm Mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."

The solution to this issue MUST come from within and it cannot be half-assed. I'm so sick of seeing exhibition, distribution and production in this country handled in the most lazy, vision-bereft and greedy manner. An all-Canadian entertainment company with a virtual monopoly has a responsibility to Canadian culture and, frankly, their own self worth as a potentially important corporate entity that actually displays its balls, vulvas and vision where it counts.

Does the industry need to perpetuate the models it created and that new generations merely accept? I began my life in this business over 30 years ago in journalism, THEN; exhibition, film buying and distribution before moving into producing and I lived through that world before, during and after. One thing I know is that models can be changed for the better and that cycles of this sort of corporate stupidity/laziness are often manufactured by the puppeteers. As producers are a viable force in the industry, they have a right to lobby violently for proper exhibition models. They MUST violently lobby for this.

The new model of limited (or worse, NO) theatrical realease followed by home viewing opportunities (which, frankly, used to be called "ancillaries") is pathetic - a pale shadow of what still could be revived, restored and revitalized for the next century and beyond. There is a strong aesthetic argument to be made for revitalizing big screen bricks and mortar experiences for ALL audiences. Granted, I'd need about 2000 words or so (if not more) to adequately explain (with a proper historical context) WHY there is a difference aesthetically between a film intended for theatrical release and one intended for home viewing. One only needs to look at any theatrical original (let's say Sam Raimi's wonderful Darkman) and its straight-to-home-viewing sequels. The latter are not only cheaper, but the story aesthetics are sans the same levels of high stakes AND sweep. One can compare this easily to the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films where II was even better than I because it was infused with the aforementioned attributes. By the way, I'm using big genre pictures as examples because they refute the notion that all Hollywood product is aimed at young audiences - ultimately the aforementioned titles were celebrated by all on the big screen. (The pathetic Spidey reboot was not.)

The bottom line is that there is a lot of truth to the old adage: "Everything old becomes new again." It's never too late to restore the glory of movie-going for ALL. It takes WORK and VISION - both of which are ALWAYS worth cherishing. Theatrical IS a real release for motion pictures crafted as such. Never mind small indie films (or most Canadian films). Under the current exhibition/distribution system, we'd NEVER see films like Warren Beatty's Reds or Pollack's Out of Africa or Cimino's The Deer Hunter. The list goes on and on and that's truly, deeply and madly sad.

All those extended series on HBO etc. that have an epic scope are a completely different medium than theatrical. Ridiculously, some will argue that they replace real adult-oriented epics made for the big screen. They should enrich the choices, not replace them. Adults WILL go to great movies: big, medium or small - it's the industry that requires the VISION to make it so.

When I was a film buyer in the early 80s, the country was overflowing with bricks and mortar cinemas - almost every small town or city had one. These were my primary clients. When the studios began closing the windows between theatrical release and video release, it destroyed most of those brick and mortal businesses. I saw it with my own eyes and experienced the deep sadness of this. It was like the 50s of Larry McMurtry's The Last Picture Show (which, as a movie, would never be made today as a theatrical feature) happening all over again. The industry created this - it was easier, less work.

It's laziness - pure and simple.

Fitzgerald's Cloudburst and so many other worthy Canadian films are not only stuck in this mire, but plunged even deeper due to the ludicrous history of English-Canadian exhibition and distribution.

While I think it's great that independent Canadian cinemas and smaller chains are picking up the slack and exercising their responsibility to their Canadian audiences to play great Canadian films (and I'd never want to see this change), the fact remains that Cineplex Entertainment has a CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY to support the exhibition of Canadian Cinema. There are plenty of cities and communities in Canada that have yet to play Cloudburst - many of these cities have Cineplex Entertainment-controlled multiplexes (like the Galaxy Theatres). In addition to presenting foreign opera, theatre and films (the recent Cineplex Digital Film Series) should  - for LIMITED PLAYDATES - be carving out a niche for the Canadian Cinema through their Front Row Centre Events (not if they do it half-assedly, though). On the Cineplex webite, they tout their Front Row Centre Events thusly:

Front Row Centre Events: Bring the world of entertainment to your community and put you in the centre of the action with the best seats in the house! Presented in High Definition via satellite with Digital Surround Sound onto screens as large as 60 feet wide. These programs are unique and Cineplex Entertainment is pleased to be presenting them in theatres across the country.

Audiences across Canada have already enjoyed the sights and sounds of spectacular performances ranging from the Metropolitan Opera to World Wrestling Entertainment. Canadians are laughing along with the world's funniest comedians or rockin' with some of the world's greatest musicians right in their own local movie theatre. There's more!! Live speaking engagements, documentaries, family programs and world premieres are just the beginning. Cineplex Entertainment continuously shops the world of entertainment for the most exclusive events, guaranteed to take your breath away and put you front row centre!

The word "world" keeps popping up in all their bumph. It's great they're bringing the world to Canadian audiences, but how about bringing Canadian Cinema to Canadian audiences?

Now, after you read the review below, feel free to come back here and click on the link HERE for my commentary on Cineplex Entertainment's commitment to Canadian Cinema and some elaboration on how THEY as a major Canadian company can funnel some of their huge profits into an initiative that's not merely philanthropic, but one that could yield even more profits in the long-run.

If you build it, they will come.

Cloudburst (2011) dir. Thom Fitzgerald
Starring: Olympia Dukakis, Brenda Fricker, Ryan Doucette, Kristin Booth


By Greg Klymkiw

"They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!'" - Jack Kerouac, On The Road

The open road is freedom, but in reality and in the best popular culture, there is always a point where one must reach the end of the road. Sometimes it's sad and empty, sometimes it's not what you expected, often it's bittersweet. Whatever lies at the end of the journey, it's the ride that should always be the thing. It's what you discover and celebrate on the road that is often far more important than what's waiting there (if anything) when it ends.

Stella (Olympia Dukakis) and Dot (Brenda Fricker) have lived an incredible journey of love and mutual respect as a couple for over 30 years, but when circumstances seemingly beyond their control threaten the joy and happiness they've had, the open road becomes the only real way to obtain a pot of proverbial gold at the end of a new journey.

Family, it seems, is not always defined by blood - it takes love - and for this couple, family comes in the unlikeliest of places and circumstances. Love is what defines lives well lived and this couple have had love in spades, but in order to keep it unfettered from the unwelcome intrusion of a well meaning, but completely out-to-lunch blood relative - public affirmation becomes the ultimate goal. They must marry.

The problem is that they live in the United States and can only gain the legal status as a married couple in Canada. What's a foul-mouthed, cowboy-hat-adorned, k.d. lang-obsessed, self-described old dyke and her jolly, sweet, visually-impaired longtime companion to do? What would you do? Me, I'd hop in my half-ton pickup truck, stock it with k.d. lang CDs, pick up a hunky male hitchhiker headed to visit his ailing Mom in Nova Scotia and cross the 49th parallel to get myself good and hitched - kind of like Stella and Dot do in the lovely, funny and touching new film written and directed by Thom Fitzgerald.

Cloudburst is a movie that needed a deft directorial touch and a script that could take the cliches normally associated with road movies and generate truth, humanity and humour and thankfully, for the most part it succeeds in this regard.

For years I kept wondering when director Thom Fitzgerald, who made one of the most thrilling feature debuts of the 90s, The Hanging Garden, was going to generate a picture that fulfilled the considerable promise displayed in that exquisite heartbreaker of a movie. This is not to discount the intervening years of work, but Cloudburst feels like a return to form and, on occasion, a step or two forward.

Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker are tremendous actresses, but given the emphasis these days upon demographics and the usual requirements from studios and other financiers to cater exclusively to younger audiences, the number of great roles for talents in this august age group are getting fewer-and-far-between-er. Fitzgerald crafted two roles that any great actress would love to sink her teeth into and frankly, Dukakis and Fricker are so captivating, moving and funny, I have to admit it feels like they were born to eventually step into these parts.

Set against the lush, superbly photographed backdrop of Nova Scotia, Fitzgerald took this story, a sort of gentle retirement-age Thelma and Louise, and both wisely and bravely delivered a tale that's as mature as it's downright universal. Love should have no boundaries and his direction indelibly captures a love story that's familiar, but bolstered by such genuine compassion, that I frankly can't imagine any audience not succumbing to it's considerable charms.

There are a few overwrought moments of humour that try a bit too hard, but for the most part, I found myself laughing heartily and genuinely and damn it all, I shed more than a few tears.

It's one of the few unabashedly sentimental celebrations of love I've seen in quite some time. The picture wears its heart proudly on its sleeve and while there's something just a little bit old-fashioned about that, Fitzgerald handles the proceedings with such grace, that everything old becomes happily new again. Some might choose to deny the power of sentiment, but they'd be lying (or just plain foolish). We all need sentiment from time to time and Cloudburst is the right time, the right place and just the right film to make us all feel grateful for the joy that life, with all its ups and downs, bestows upon us and hopefully prepares us for whatever journey we take beyond the end of the road.

"Cloudburst" is playing across Canada. See list of playdates above.