Alfresco film viewing: who needs movie theatres anyway?

Alfresco film viewing: who needs movie theatres anyway?

Drake Conrad adjusts the focus of the film being projected onto a giant silver screen as the popcorn munching audience looks on. The film, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, flickers away. This could be taking place in any Toronto cinema, but the scene is Conrad’s rooftop, near Liberty Village. Before the feature, cartoons and classic film trailers are shown, featuring advertisements with the ubiquitous “let’s all go to the lobby” jingle. The relaxing vibe is mixed…

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Toronto Jewish Film Festival puts horror movies in the spotlight

Toronto Jewish Film Festival puts horror movies in the spotlight

This article originally appeared in the Toronto Star on May 1, 2014. In Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers, a 1967 parody of the popular Hammer horror genre, a young woman attempts to fend off a Jewish vampire by brandishing a cross — a bloodsucker’s kryptonite. It doesn’t go so well. “Oy vey, have you got the wrong vampire,” responds the unafflicted creature of the night. In its 22nd year, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival…

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When Charlie Chaplin comes to town

When Charlie Chaplin comes to town

The silent Keystone comedy, Kid Auto Races at Venice, should have been exactly that — a newsreel documenting a soapbox derby race. But as children race along an audience-lined pathway, a curious fellow wearing a bowler hat and baggy pants emerges into the frame, constantly interrupting the shot. The man is Charlie Chaplin. In cinematic terms, he was the original photobomber. Released in February, 1914, the film marks Chaplin’s first publicly screened appearance as the…

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Frankenstein Created Woman and the modern horror film

Frankenstein Created Woman and the modern horror film

This article originally appeared in the Toronto Star on January 23, 2014. ‘Subversive’ film from 1960s originally snipped to pieces by Ontario censors. Eat your heart out, Aaron Eckhart. I, Frankenstein, a film inspired by Mary Shelley’s oft-adapted novel, isn’t the only Frankenstein tale opening in Toronto this week. On Thursday, Frankenstein Created Woman screens at TIFF Bell Lightbox as part of Rue Morgue Magazine’s monthly Cinemacabre series. But when the film — in which…

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How Star Wars revolutionized the toy biz

How Star Wars revolutionized the toy biz

The LEGO Movie, which blends Batman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Han Solo in one film, is the type of thing that could once only happen if you paired your imagination with the contents of your toy box. Now it’s on the big screen. A culmination of more than three decades of action figures, cartoons and toy advertising, which started in 1977, the year George Lucas released Star Wars. Brian Stillman doesn’t remember a…

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In a digital world, why is our visual history being lost?

In a digital world, why is our visual history being lost?

Marc Taaffe, cigarette dangling from his lips, threads film through a projector, a giant streamlined machine that looks as if it belongs in a wartime munitions factory. The Junction antique and curio shop owner is screening a mixed bag of 16mm films on a makeshift plywood screen in his store, called, modestly enough, World Headquarters. The film he is preparing to show to a clutch of interested customers comes from a small can labelled “Hazel…

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Oscar Micheaux and the birth of black cinema

Oscar Micheaux and the birth of black cinema

From 1919 to 1948, Oscar Micheaux directed 42 films with all-black casts shown to black audiences in black theatres. In Classified X, a documentary about Hollywood’s history of racist portrayals of African-Americans, a montage ends on a shot of a frightened black actor, teeth chattering, seeking consolation from his white boss. “Why is he so scared?” asks narrator Melvin Van Peebles. Cutting to the iconic photograph of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith,…

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The Changeling & other Canadian flicks you don’t want to watch alone

The Changeling & other Canadian flicks you don’t want to watch alone

TIFF’s Halloween showcase makes us think about Canadian horror. There’s no shortage of horror playing on Toronto screens on Halloween night, but TIFF Bell Lightbox takes a patriotic route with The Changeling (1980) and Ginger Snaps (2000), two pivotal Canadian horror films. “Even though Canadian films are known primarily as an auteur cinema, there’s a long-running history of genre and horror cinema,” says Canadian Open Vault programmer Steve Gravestock. The Changeling, which stars George C….

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Jerry Lewis shows sensitive side in The Jazz Singer

Jerry Lewis shows sensitive side in The Jazz Singer

TV remake of Al Jolson movie screens at Toronto Jewish Film Festival. There’s long been a joke about the French inexplicably loving the films of Jerry Lewis. But maybe they’re onto something. Although a number of politically incorrect comments made by the Hollywood legend over the past decade have not helped his image, Murray Pomerance of Ryerson University thinks film enthusiasts should take another look. “So many people who have negative things to say about…

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Buster Keaton’s final word

Buster Keaton’s final word

Silent legend Buster Keaton shot his last movie, The Scribe, in Toronto. The rare short is being released on Blu-ray this week. Buster Keaton, who rose to fame in the 1920s, directed and starred in some of the most famous films of the silent era. The General (1926) is ranked 34th on Sight and Sound magazine’s list of the 50 greatest films of all time. Nearly four decades later, during a chilly October in 1965,…

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