Stories We Tell

Nightcrawler Movie

It can be quite magical to be at a large film festival. There are hundreds to choose from – heaps of beautiful films that will never again leave their home country, indie delights that will receive the most minimal distribution, and of course, a smattering of Hollywood forays into deeper subject matter. You can meet people from all over the world, hear filmmakers and casts give insights into their productions, and have a valid excuse to eat piles of junk food as you race between screenings. But after the fiftieth time someone pushes their reclining seat back so far that it’s pinned your legs to your own chair, or people come and go repeatedly throughout the movie, or someone pulls out their phone and someone else yells at them, or any of the other results of hundreds of people seeing countless films together, any film fiend will start to descend into madness and wish for the joys of home couches and television screenings. This year, it’s not so hard to replicate the TIFF experience at home. There are filmmakers revisiting old tropes and material, actors honing talents that once made them stars, and features that nod to the films that came before. Here are seven films currently screening at TIFF, and the films they can be replaced with at home.

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Sarah Polley in

A big new chunk of movies gets added to Netflix every month—which is awesome—but with the constant glut of new content, how are you supposed to know which movies are worth your time and which are just going to force you to hit stop after twenty minutes? This column will give you a place to start. I had to hit stop on a lot of bad movies in order to get this list together, so you owe me. Without further ado, here are 18 good movies to stream that were recently added to Netflix’s Watch-It-Right-This-Second service and should keep you entertained from start to finish. As always, click on the films’ titles in order to be taken to their Netflix page, where you can add them to your My List. Pick of the Month: Stories We Tell (2012) Stories We Tell is a documentary from director Sarah Polley that’s largely about Sarah Polley. Or, it’s about her origins, at least. Okay, a lot of it is about her mom, and how it came to be that Polley’s parentage became a point of contention among her older siblings. Is her dad really her dad, or might it have been this other guy? What kind of a life did her mother lead for this to even be a question? How does Polley herself feel about the ambiguity, and how would her relationship with her father change if she found out they weren’t biologically linked? This movie attacks the situation from a lot of angles, […]

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Stories We Tell

Even if you don’t buy into the game and you prefer not to live in a world in which the term “Oscar snub” is used with a straight face, sometimes a lack of recognition for worthy nominees can still sting a little. Such was the case with the conspicuous absence of Sarah Polley’s name when the Best Documentary Feature nominees were announced two weeks ago. After two strong narrative explorations of romantic relationships in the bitter winter of old age and the summer splendor of late youth (Away From Her and Take This Waltz, respectively), Polley redirected her interest in the world of human coupling by turning the camera on herself – or, more accurately, her family, or, even more accurately, who she thinks may be her family, or… Well, just see it if you haven’t already, because Stories We Tell is one of the more passionate, involving, and incisively intelligent mainstream documentaries to be released in quite some time. AMPAS has had a history of recognizing more conservative, journalistic notions of “documentary” and shown favor for the crowd-pleasers (like this year’s Sugar Man-esque hit 20 Feet From Stardom). But that only speaks more in Polley’s film’s favor, as it potentially joins the ranks of other productively unconventional yet contemporaneously unrecognized documentaries that we continue to regard as seminal well after their release, like Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line. Regardless of the reputation and recognitions of Stories We Tell, now or in the future, Sarah Polley is certainly a filmmaker […]

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2013review_critics

Before Midnight! Gravity! The Wolf of Wall Street! Fruitvale Station! The Great Beauty! Philomena! Frances Ha! Blue Jasmine! Spring Breakers! Nebraska! Dallas Buyers Club! The Wind Rises! Saving Mr. Banks! None of the thirteen critically acclaimed films above are on my list of the thirteen best films of 2013 below. Make of that what you will, but of the whopping 241 new releases I watched this year these are the thirteen that have stuck with me the strongest. That said, I did make a conscious effort to focus on U.S. releases for the list since I have a separate Top 13 for Best Foreign Language films. It’s been a fantastic year in cinema all around, and I could just as easily offered a list twice as long. Keep reading to see what I feel are the thirteen best movies of 2013.

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2013review_scifi

This year promised a number of great original science fiction movies from Hollywood, and then it turned out most of them weren’t even good let alone great — the sort that left us with way too many unanswered questions regarding their plot holes. Meanwhile, in the fantasy genre, we continued to see the studios churning out one YA adaptation after another in the hopes of it being the next Hunger Games (or still the next Harry Potter or Twilight or even Star Wars in the case of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) and ironically having no clue how to find the *magic* in the appeal of these kinds of stories. And of course there’s the ever-growing subgenre of superhero movies, which really only disappointed this year because they arrived in the wake of 2012’s The Avengers, not simply because most of the output was sequels (Iron Man 3; Thor: The Dark World; The Wolverine) that were merely okay rather than totally awesome. As I’ve noted in the past, I don’t consider Gravity to be sci-fi (even after learning that some tech in the film doesn’t exist yet), but I’ll let it be known that if I were to qualify the outer space thriller, I’d put it in the number 6 slot on account of its gripping visual storytelling and little else. As for another popular choice (one that made a few FSR staffer’s best of lists, as well as our democratically voted top 10), Pacific Rim might have made this […]

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2013review_docs

What a year for nonfiction cinema. The power and the poetry and the perspective of documentaries in 2013 all reached groundbreaking levels. Films are changing minds, maybe some industries, perhaps even eventually some national histories. They’re illustrating imaginations and emotions and memories in ways that expand the mode beyond realism to points of greater truth. We saw things this year that we’ve simply never seen on film before, and we also embraced the very familiar through totally fresh points of view. Whether it was a story of one family’s secret or of the shockingly unhidden yet unexplored travesty of a whole country, or of an investigation into the covert dealings of our own military or of the previously unspoken complexities of a serious issue of medical and moral controversy, the best docs of this year dove deep into the unknown and came out offering astonishing tales and testimonies. Or they blew fiction films out of the water in terms of their cinematic spectacle and narrative creativity, their capability to depict romance and suspense and humor and even a sense of magic. Below are the 13 titles that Nonfics has democratically determined to be the greatest U.S. theatrical releases of the year. Compiled and tallied from the individual lists of columnist Robert Greene and critics Daniel Walber, Dan Schindel and Landon Palmer, as well as Nonfics Managing Editor Christopher Campbell, the selections do well to represent the bounty of varied works we had this year that continue to broaden the scope […]

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discs stories we tell

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Stories We Tell Sarah Polley, best known for her work both in front of and behind the camera for feature films, turns her eye onto her own family in documentary form as she explores a part of their history from varying perspectives. Through interviews and home videos she goes back in time to explore her parents lives, her own childhood, and a secret they all think they know. What starts as a focus on a mystery becomes something more as stories, recollections, and memories differ from person to person. In a year filled with fantastic and powerful documentaries, Polley’s film remains the warmest and most wondrous thanks both to the content and the film’s structure. She’s on this journey with us, equally unsure of her own motivations and delighted by the results. It’s a personal story, even her family members wonder why anyone else would care, yet it speaks to a universal truth about how we share our stories and make them our own. Each person has their own tale as well as a piece of everyone else’s, and it’s amazing to see them play out onscreen. Plus, the stinger here puts Marvel films to shame. [DVD extras: Trailer]

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stories-we-tell03

Memories have a way of perverting the truth. Over time, we idealize past events to better suit our present and recount them to so many others that the memories become altered, like in a game of telephone. Each person can interpret the same event differently, thus begging the question: what is the real truth? Sarah Polley makes a thoughtful examination of memory and interpretation in her film Stories We Tell, a masterfully constructed documentary through which she looks for answers to an important part of her own life: her true parentage. Polley weaves together interviews with her family members, as well as intimidate narrations and Super 8 footage in attempt to piece together the intricate “whole story” of the past. Though that past that is admittedly shaped by it’s director and therefore not as objective as it may seem.

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The Bling Ring

It’s almost time for sunscreen, something you won’t need to purchase if you plan on staying in the cool, dark space of the movie theater from June through August. But what are you going to see? How could you possibly know what’s coming out and when? Did you even know there’s a Superman movie on the way? Of course you did. Geoff and I have combed through studio press releases, had a lot of secret meetings in parking garages, and decided to talk about 6 Limited Release Summer Movies that might have slipped under the cape-filled radar. Plus, our big interview is with Cheech and Chong, who review Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines and promise to make Up in Smoke 2 if their new animated movie makes $100m in its opening week. For more from us on a daily basis, follow the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on the Twitter. And, as always, we welcome your feedback. Download Episode #15 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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Sundance: Stories We Tell

The first thing that director Sarah Polley asks of the subjects of her documentary debut, Stories We Tell, is for “the whole story.” She asks for it with little fanfare and with an obvious desire to allow her subjects as long as they need to tell that whole story. But, more than anything, Polley asks for that truth honestly, believing that there actually is some whole story to be revealed and that enough time and patience and questions will allow it to show itself. It’s a wild idea, really, asking for honesty and cohesion, even when it comes to documentary filmmaking, a process that, more than anything, aims to illuminate truth and real stories. And yet, it’s also an insane demand – stories are subjective, memory so fickle, experience so fractured – can we expect people to give Polley one satisfying story? On the other hand, we can’t blame Polley for asking for such truth because, after all, she’s not just the film’s director – she’s also its subject.

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park city cloudy

My first full day of my very first Sundance was yesterday, and I’m already tired. Sadly, there were no obese snorers for me to kick like there was during my first movie on Saturday (he did not appreciate it), but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been witnessing some other sad behaviors. But let’s look at the good stuff first…

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The East

With the year’s first large scale film fest, the Sundance Film Festival, kicking off later this week, it’s high time that we started making some predictions about some of the films that are most likely to explode off the screen up in snowy Park City. Every Sundance (and, really, every major film festival) churns out its darlings, its favorites, its gems, those films that take weary festival-loving audiences by storm and become not only the talk of the festival, but the talk of the cinematic world. Of course, anyone who has ever attended even a massive festival like Sundance knows that festival buzz doesn’t exactly spell out mainstream success, but it’s sure as hell a nice place to start. While our intrepid Sundance team – myself, Allison, and Rob – have already weighed in our individual “most anticipated” films of the festival, those personal picks don’t cover the full gamut of films poised to become the big ticket films at this year’s festival. Here’s our attempt to sniff those babies out. After the break, check out the fifteen films we’re banking on to light up this year’s Sundance.

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C.O.G.

Film festival scheduling is a delicate art, a precarious balance of needs and desires, a rigorous exercise in making puzzle pieces fit. It’s hard, is what I’m saying, and it’s harder still when a fest’s programming is rounded out with so many films that sound so good – like this year’s Sundance Film Festival slate. As the fest rolled out their picks late last year, I’d spend whole mornings squealing over their listings, getting jazzed weeks in advance for films I hoped I’d be able to see. After all that, I’ve narrowed down my picks to ten films I cannot wait to see, a list that includes some Sundance favorites, some returning stars, Canada’s best film of the year, a possible break-out hit or two, and even a doc about mountain climbing, because those are just the sorts of films I wait all year to see at Sundance. Take a look at the ten films I’m most likely to shiv someone in order to see, after the break.

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Sarah Polley

With Sarah Polley‘s first documentary, the autobiographical Stories We Tell premiering at the Venice Film Festival this week and starting to make its festival rounds, it’s only appropriate that the production’s first trailer has arrived. The doc was first teased as centering on a “family of storytellers” and the way they all communicate and interpret the same shared stories – enticing enough, and all the more so when Polley revealed just yesterday that both the family and the story were her own. The film’s first trailer adeptly obscures the ostensible heart of its own subject matter (which Polley blogged about yesterday), instead tantalizing us with the promise of revealing a look at Polley’s mother’s entire life by way of lots of archival footage (her mother was also an actress) and interviews with much of her family, including Polley’s own father and siblings. It is, at turns, funny (Polley directing her own father is a sweet and amusing way to reveal her involvement), sad (her siblings remember the passing of their mother in very personal ways), and intriguing (just what is that thing they’ve all joked about that proves true?). But what’s really most compelling about this brief first look is Polley herself, sitting quietly in a chair, having taking a time out from an interview that’s clearly proved too hard to handle, head in her hands. It’s a tiny moment, but enormously moving. Check out the first trailer for Stories We Tell after the break.

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Noah Baumbach

As is tradition (and a pretty fun one at that), the Telluride Film Festival has announced their lineup just one day before the festival kicks off in Telluride, CO. The 39th Telluride Film Festival will include twenty-five narrative and documentary films in its Main Program, with a total of “nearly 100 feature films, short films and revivals representing over thirty countries, along with Tribute programs, Conversations, Panels and Education Programs.” This year’s slate includes a number of anticipated films and many that are already gathering momentum on the festival circuit, including Michael Haneke‘s Amour, Ramin Bahrani‘s At Any Price, Michael Winterbottom‘s Everyday, Sally Potter‘s Ginger and Rosa, Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, Thomas Vinterberg‘s The Hunt, Roger Michell‘s Hyde Park on Hudson, Jacques Audiard‘s Rust & Bone, Sarah Polley‘s Stories We Tell, and Wayne Blair‘s The Sapphires. In addition to these solid picks, Telluride will also unveil some surprise “Sneak Previews” over the weekend. Past sneaks have included 127 Hours, Black Swan, and Up in the Air. Additionally, Marion Cotillard, Roger Corman, and Mads Mikkelsen will all be honored. After the break, check out the complete listing of Telluride’s just-announced festival slate.

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Sarah Polley

Last month, a press release revealed that multi-hyphenate (and multi-talented) Sarah Polley had lensed her very first documentary feature, Stories We Tell, which had been previously kept somewhat under wraps. We didn’t know much about the film back then, just that Polley had been working on it for a number of years, that it would premiere at the Venice Film Festival (kicking off today), and that it centered on “a family of storytellers” who all approached the same subject in different ways. It didn’t seem as if Polley was being willfully obtuse about the film, just that perhaps the film’s very nature was best suited for a bit of cloak and dagger (similar to something like Dear Zachary or Catfish or even The Imposter). As it turns out, Polley wasn’t hiding the plot of Stories We Tell, she was just preparing herself for the big reveal – because the family of storytellers at center of the documentary is her own and it’s Polley’s very life that is the focus of the film. In anticipation of the film’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Polley posted a guest post over at the National Film Board of Canada’s blog (the film was made in collaboration with the NFB and their CFC/NFB Feature Documentary Program) which reveals that Stories We Tell centers on Polley’s discovery and acceptance of the news that the man she had spent her entire life believing was her father was not, and that she was the product of an extramarital […]

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Stories We Tell at Venice

Multi-hyphenate Sarah Polley has already lovingly crafted two beautiful feature films – Away From Her and Take This Waltz – and is now expending her directorial repertoire to include a documentary that sounds as if it will fit perfectly inside her already immensely accomplished work (we’re fans of her, okay?). That new film, Stories We Tell, is now set to debut at the Venice Film Festival, and the only question more pressing than “wait, how expensive is it to fly to Venice?” is “wait, just what is this film about?” The film is Polley’s first venture into documentary filmmaking, and one she’s been working on since 2008, when the CFC/NFB Feature Documentary Program was first unveiled. Little is known about the film, including the details of its subjects, but we do know that it centers on “a family of storytellers” that Polley interviews about the same subjects with unexpectedly different results. Stories We Tell will have its World Premiere in the Venice Days program as part of the Venice Film Festival later this summer (August 29 –  September 8). Produced by Anita Lee and Silva Basmajian, the film was made in collaboration with the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and their still-blossoming feature documentary program. Check out the film’s official (though still vague) synopsis after the break.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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