The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki

Well, folks, last week's screening marked the end of another season for us. Our last film was a debut feature, a multiple award winner, and a charming leave-off point. The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, alternatively entitled Hymyilevä Mies or Smiling Man, is a sympathetic portrait of the historical and personal circumstances surrounding Finland's Olli Mäki's World Featherweight Championship match against America's Davey Moore in 1962. This is a subtle and evocative period piece, with Kuosmanen's choice of 16mm black and white reversal film adding beautiful tone and texture, further establishing that 1960s atmosphere. The story goes like this. An up-and-coming small-town boxer gets a shot at world renown. What Olli needs now is the focus to become the alpha hero his country believes he will be. Instead, he falls in love with Raija. It reads like a familiar plot, but the film's approach is refreshing. Boxing and romance may be central here, but this isn't your standard boxing or romantic fare. It's a character piece, dealing in the gap between societal expectations and personal fulfilment when both are at odds.

Jarkko Lahti stars as the titular boxer, Olli Mäki.

Jarkko Lahti stars as the titular boxer, Olli Mäki.

Kuosmanen grew up in Kokkola, Mäki's hometown. In an interview with Cineuropa, the director reports overhearing a conversation in which Mäki was quizzed on his experience of what was described as a catastrophe. The man marketed as a national legend, the next world champion, went down that momentous day in an astonishing two rounds. The boxer's response? “It was the happiest day of my life.” In a world of sports movies driven by narratives of overcoming adversity through force of will, of doing one's utmost to 'make it', to prove oneself according to the rules of the sport, of fame, and of the hero stereotype, Mäki's feelings seem quite a reversal. This narrative switch was an ideal set-up for Kuosmanen, who originally balked at the idea of another boxing film. He was drawn to the peculiar mismatch of Mäki's humble personality to the demanding, carnivalesque world of sports fame.

Oona Airola co-stars as Raiji Mäki, the woman Olli falls for.

Oona Airola co-stars as Raiji Mäki, the woman Olli falls for.

We get a glimpse of a man who had no interest in being the machismo icon the public wanted. He was reluctant to knock his opponents out, a quality not exactly complementary to the sport. What he wanted was to be left alone to enjoy a life not defined by the pressures of cultural notions of success. This is the unique charm of the film. This boxer doesn't fight to prove anything. The anticipated match is not a metaphor of triumph over oneself. There's no onslaught of violins cued to evoke our emotion. Kuosmanen achieves empathy simply and masterfully. He avoids the standard tropes in favour of more inclusive questions of fulfillment and the ways in which we define this for each other and for ourselves.

Thanks to each of you who came out for this round of films, stayed for the events, gave us feedback, and helped support independent screenings in Halifax. We love you for it and will see you again soon. If you want to keep your ear to the ground for the next batch headed your way in September, sign up for our newsletter.

-Rose Scoville

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City

As our screening of Citizen Jane: Battle for the City was about to begin last Friday, I remarked “It’s funny; the theatre is full, but the parking lot isn’t like it usually is.” A few of my fellow volunteers replied, “Of course, because it’s people coming to see a film about Jane Jacobs.” I confess that Jacobs was not a figure I was familiar with prior to this film, a fact which I now realize should be a source of embarrassment.

In the film, Jacobs' influential work studying cities and critiquing urban planning is placed alongside such towering figures of American cultural criticism as Betty Friedan, Susan Sontag, and James Baldwin, who recently received the documentary treatment in the riveting I Am Not Your NegroCitizen Jane is structured somewhat differently from that film, which consists almost entirely of Baldwin’s own words. Here Jacobs' own words and voice, are placed alongside those of her friends and foes from the period, through archival footage and voice-over excerpts of her and Moses' writing, as well as contemporary interviewees who provide historical context and elaboration of her influence. All of this is cut together with slow-motion images of city life, past protests, and illustrations. Director Matt Tyrnauer is not interested in reinventing documentary form here, so much as using its conventions to tell Jacobs’ story with mostly unobtrusive filmmaking.

So, what is Jacobs’ story? Well, it is a bit of a David and Goliath story. Goliath, in this instance, is Moses; more specifically, urban planning titan Robert Moses. Moses borrowed the ideas of Le Corbusier, envisioning great American cities coordinated around express highways, sky-scraping high-rises, and impoverished communities concentrated into projects. Future success of these cities, in his hierarchical view, depended on neatly organized architecture, automobiles, and law enforcement. With money and power to back him up, Moses began putting these ideas into action. Then, along came Jane Jacobs, a young woman with an insatiable intellect and a completely different comprehension of how cities work. In her seminal 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs posited that cities are messy because this is how they should be. Amid the perceived chaos, she argued, were underlying structures derived from the needs and habits of the citizens who actually lived there. When men in suits, like Moses, decide to rearrange these complex systems around their own, economically driven agendas everybody loses; but most pointedly, the marginalized poor and racialized citizens are hurt most. I will not parse out the details of Jacobs’ ideas here, though; I am not and expert, and for that, you should seek out this film or read her writing.

During her introduction to the film Carbon Arc programmer Kendra Barnes claimed Jacobs as one of the original “social justice warriors.” The cultural context in which the battle between Jacobs and Moses occurred is strikingly resonant today. Noted throughout the film is the way in which the public debate was gendered, not only because of these two figures, but also the bases backing them up and the writing surrounding them. Many of the marches against Moses plans were arranged and led by mothers; one memorable photo op of Jacobs’ design featured her young daughter in a “ribbon-tying” ceremony, an parody of politicians’ ribbon-cutting addiction. The footage does not feel too far from the recent Women’s Marches against a certain 45th President of the United States of America, another man who made his name with controversial property practices and a history of discrimination. It is also worth mentioning that Jacobs’ early work found a publishing home in magazines like Vogue, demonstrating that Teen Vogue’s political content is not simply a new trend, but a moment in a long history of female-centric journalism’s intellectual bent being overlooked. Despite Jacobs’ wisdom, critics persisted; one scathing review in The New Yorker was titled “Mother Jacobs’ Home Remedies”; such subtle, poignant misogyny.

The theories Jacobs gave voice to are likely familiar to cinephiles. One can go back as far as 1927, before Jacobs even began writing, to the classic of German Expressionism and science fiction Metropolis for depictions of urban modernism’s failed ambitions and the class struggle which results. Perhaps more directly related is Ben Wheatley’s 2015 film High-Rise, adapted from the J.G. Ballard novel, depicting the chaotic violence erupting in a single high-rise complex in which the rich architects stay rich, while the lower classes’ needs go unmet. In this season of Carbon Arc’s screenings alone inklings of Jacobs’ insight are useful, from the personal impact of gentrification in Ira Sachs’ family drama Little Men, to urbanization’s impact on Turkey’s free-roaming feline population in Ceyda Torun’s documentary Kedi. I smell a thesis brewing; “The Death and Life of Great Turkish Kitties”, anyone? While these are all wonderful films, this film encourages its audience more explicitly to think about one's own city and the implications of the political maneuvering behind its design. Equally as important is that it is a movie which directly points to Jacobs’ as an originator of many of these ideas, a welcome and necessary addition. Viewers like myself would not be aware of her immense cultural contributions otherwise.

-Nick Malbeuf


Friday, April 28 marks the end of another season of screenings at Carbon Arc. At 7pm, we have the Finnish black-and-white boxing biopic The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki, which garnered rave reviews at the last edition of Cannes. Then, at 9pm, we will end the season with beloved cat documentary KediMake sure to get your tickets early, and visit our homepage to subscribe to our newsletter and receive updates on our upcoming seasons!

David Lynch: The Art Life

Imagine how unnerving it would be to listen to Dr. Frankenstein talk about his monster as if his monster is a goofy pet that just learned a new trick, the ol’ rascal. This is a lot like what listening to David Lynch talk about his artwork is like. We screened David Lynch: The Art Life on Friday night at Carbon Arc. This documentary, by the same team that made Lynch (One), focuses mostly on the director as a painter. Narrated in episodic anecdotes by Lynch, the film takes us from the director’s childhood to the production of his first feature, Eraserhead. It’s funny and alarming to hear Lynch describe a rather idyllic childhood and subsequent angst-ridden years as a teenager and young man in his fragmented, nasal cadence, knowing how bizarre and horrifying the products of his work are.

There is one scene in which Lynch tells a story about his father visiting his home in Philadelphia. Lynch takes his dad to the basement to show him his experiments - old food and dead bugs which Lynch left out to observe their decaying process. Lynch recalls that he realized his dad misunderstood this as some sort of sick project. This is where one would expect the director to correct the misunderstanding. Instead, the story just kind of ends. It was at this point in the film that a woman sitting in front of me turned to her friend and asked if she wanted to leave.

Archival footage of the filmmaker and artist as a young boy.

Archival footage of the filmmaker and artist as a young boy.

The Art Life shows Lynch's life-long passion for painting, portraying a side of the artist often overshadowed by his career as a filmmaker. It offers an entertaining insight into his artistic process, albeit at the expense of forcing you to imagine David Lynch as an innocent child.

-Chelsea Rozansky


Join us at Carbon Arc Friday, April 21 at 7pm for Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, a documentary feature about Canadian-American author and activist Jane Jacobs. The next night, at 7pm, we will screen the 18th Annual Animation Show of Shows, a curated program of award-winning international animated short films, including a recent Oscar winner and nominee. Finally, on April 28 Carbon Arc will end its winter season with a double feature of Finnish festival darling and Cannes screened The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki and the return of everybody's favourite cat documentary Kedi - these kittens aren't quittin' (I'm sorry).

 

Double Feature: Ma Vie de Courgette and A House on 41st Street

The first feature we screened last Friday night at Carbon Arc was the France/Switzerland co-production Ma Vie de Courgette (My Life as a Zucchini). We screened the original French version, which, according to our projectionist Kenny, is better than the English dubbed. Ma Vie de Courgette was first presented at the 2016 Cannes film festival and was nominated for Best Animated Feature and made the nine-film shortlist for Best Foreign Language film at this year’s Oscars. The film, an adaptation of Gilles Paris’ novel Autobiographie d’une Courgette, was directed by Claude Barras and written by Céline Sciamma, whom you might remember from her coming-of age dramas Water Lilies, Tomboy and Girlhood.

Zucchini and his new peers pose for a photograph.

Zucchini and his new peers pose for a photograph.

Ma Vie de Courgette is a stop motion animation that features a band of orphan puppets, lovable despite their belief that they’ve come together only because there’s nobody out there to love them. The puppet-protagonist insists on being called Zucchini, a pet name his mother gave him. Ma Vie de Courgette may be written in beginner French, but this only serves to fool me into thinking I’m better at speaking the language than I really am. Courgette is not exactly a children’s movie, but its difficult narrative is heartwarming as told through children’s eyes. Zucchini is sent to a foster home for accidently causing his alcoholic mother to fall down a set of stairs to her death after she threatens to beat him. The children he meets there have equally horrifying reasons for being sent to the home.

Ma Vie De Courgette captures that strange combination of naivety and trauma, following films like Francois Truffaut’s 400 Blows in a tradition of growing up too fast. Truffaut was an influence on the film and traces of his Antoine Doinel alter ego appear in Zucchini. Zucchini especially evokes Antoine Doinel in the short after the film’s credits where the candid puppet auditions for the lead role of the film. Equally cheeky as it is charming, Ma Vie De Courgette offers a puppet-world miniature of real-life problems, and wrapping them up in just over 60 minutes, the film ends with a sinking sense of being too good to be true.

-Chelsea Rozansky


Last Friday's second screening, A House on 41st Street, was our Iranian film fare for April. Directed by Hamid Reza Ghorbani and led by a strong female cast, this crime drama kept in thematic step with the evening's first screening. Once again we explore sudden family disintegration and its effects on the youngest ones. Unlike Ma Vie...A House... offers us no comic relief nor redemptive closure. What we get instead is a complex, realistic portrayal of individuals with conflicting emotional needs and shifting ideas of justice, vengeance, and acceptance.

We start the film with the silhouettes of two men in a darkened shop with a counter of glass between them. Their disagreement over a financial mishandling becomes a shouting match, grows violent, and abruptly halts in total blackness and silence, which can only mean one thing. After the murder of Morteza by his enraged brother, Mohsen (Ali Mosaffa), the guilty man disappears. From here we follow the remaining family as a fly on the wall, our views framed through open windows and half-shut doorways with the camera's shake bringing us smack into the tense claustrophobia of their home. Fittingly, the house's ceilings crumble above the occupants. The plumbing leaks and is torn from the walls. As one side struggles with no heat and the other with no water, they enact a tug-o-war between retribution and forgiveness.

Ali Mosaffa as Mohsen

Ali Mosaffa as Mohsen

The film's impetus is not just in these competing positions, but in the extent to which they are realized within the legal context of present-day Iran. Under Sharia law, crimes such as Mohsen's (classified as qesas or qisas, “eye-for-an-eye”) are punishable by execution. However, there is a catch. Iranian law puts the onus of judgement on the victim's heirs. Should they choose, the guilty can be eventually released, “forgiven” with a diya, a blood money payment. So, how does this idea of justice look when those who judge and are judged, who might benefit from and suffer from this judgement are the same? This is the question Ghorbani poses.

Soheila Razavi as Mrs. Shokou

Soheila Razavi as Mrs. Shokou

This film is extremely dialogue driven. The initial build-up is slow with many quickly cut exchanges, the most interesting of these being unreliable stand-ins for the characters' unsaid concerns and motives. Through these we jump between and explore diverging sets of needs and psychologies. At the social and legal centre of it all is one surprisingly composed matriarch, Mrs. Shokhou (Soheila Razavi). She's grandmother to the emotionally lost children, mother-in-law to the opposing wives, and mother to killer and killed. Perhaps this social territory she occupies should make her composure less surprising. After all, we know her as someone who is no stranger to grief. Within this context, Razavi's portrayal of her character as more action than emotion, mostly expressionless while her remaining family disappears is perhaps the strongest implication of loss shown in the film.

Mahnaz Afshar as Forough (left) & Saeed

Mahnaz Afshar as Forough (left) & Saeed

Razavi may be the family's foundation, but, of course, foundation alone is no shelter. As the consequences of one generation's actions ripple to the next, the slain man's 12-year-old son struggles to find an outlet for his rage. Unbeknownst to him, the man at the centre of his hate is no longer behind bars and is determined to atone for the lost brother and father, now personified in the boy. This will lead all involved toward their inevitable confrontation. Ghorbani may ask questions of judgement and its effects, but he builds a tension that accumulates in a messy and bleak portrait of individuals at their most desperate and irreconcilable, when redemption or closure is what they need most and what they, like their audience, won't find.

-Rose Scoville


Join us this week at Carbon Arc Friday April 14th at 7pm for David Lynch: The Art Life, a critically acclaimed portrait of the world renowned auteur and artist that promises to take you inside of one cinema's strangest minds. Then, return on April 21st at 7pm for another documentary portrait, this time of author, activist, and cultural critic Jane Jacobs, with Citizen Jane: Battle for the CityThose of you who enjoyed Ma Vie may want to get your tickets for the 18th Annual Animation Show of Shows, a program of award-winning international animated short films, carefully curated by Ron Diamond, and including this year's Oscar winner, and another nominee. Finally, our programmers are hard at work selecting the best film to end this season on April 28th; keep your eyes glued to our events page, subscribe to our mailing list on our home page, and like us on Facebook for updates on this and our future seasons! See you at the cinema!

Triple Feature: After the Storm, Kedi, and A Matter of Time

Hirokazu Koreeda’s After the Storm breaks your heart in that particular way that your family can break your heart through the most trivial moments. This Japanese drama, which we screened on Friday night at Carbon Arc, tells the bittersweet story of a man who yearns for the past. Ryota, played by Hiroshi Abe, is a divorced man still in love with his ex-wife, a novelist who has never again achieved the success of his first book, a father who can hardly pay the child support needed to see his son, a freelance detective and unlucky gambler. In one scene in the film, Ryota’s son asks him if he grew up to be who he wanted to be when he was younger and Ryota responds, “I’m not who I want to be yet.” This, perhaps, is the theme of the film.

Shinoda Ryôta (Hiroshi Abe), Shiraishi Shingo (Taiyô Yoshizawa), and Shiraishi Kyôko (Yôko Maki) in Hirokazu Koreeda's After the Storm.

Shinoda Ryôta (Hiroshi Abe), Shiraishi Shingo (Taiyô Yoshizawa), and Shiraishi Kyôko (Yôko Maki) in Hirokazu Koreeda's After the Storm.

 A typhoon brings Ryota’s estranged family together under one roof for a night. The unforced, intimate dialogue between characters who love each other, who are hurt by each other, who can’t do more for each other, offer a tattered family portrait of a tattered family. Humour and pain both break through in these conversations and it is the complex relationships between characters that hold the film together. After the Storm is quiet, meditative and melancholic.

                                                                                                                             - Chelsea Rozansky

 

The Halifax Cat Rescue Society joined us to fundraise at our third sold-out screening on Saturday night. Kedi seems to be receiving the warmest welcome of any film Carbon Arc has screened yet! If these are to be taken as worthy indicators, it seems that the cat love is strong here in our hometown. Cats may be treated uniquely in Turkey, but the bond is apparently international.

I know what you’re thinking: why would I watch a movie about cats when Youtube exists? No disrespect to the wonders of the internet, a seemingly endless source of adorable and zany feline feats, but these cat videos tend to lack both style and substance. The production value is low and the pleasure is fleeting. This is not so for Kedi. Ceyda Torun’s documentary film follows the story of seven Turkish cats and the humans who love them. However, these cats are not pets; they are the free-roaming descendants of cats who came aboard ships from all over the world to make a home in Turkey. These creatures are distinct, but not entirely dissimilar to that of sacred cows; they are to be cared for, but their independence is to be respected.

This is perhaps one of the greatest lessons one can learn from the film – how to care for something or someone without ownership. Whether interacting with nature or humans this lesson is indispensable. In the case of the former, the parallels are evident, but subtle. The cats are placed in an increasingly precarious position by urban modernization. In a busy street marketplace with shop owners familiar with the creatures, cats are familiar, safe, and taken care of. Once construction begins to establish malls and supermarkets, this is not the case. The consequences of human progress’s inconsideration leave nature in a lurch, just as these cats are left.

The personal aspect of this lesson is similarly subtle, but clear nonetheless. Some of the human participants in the film leave details ambiguous, but seem to have troublesome relations to family and loved ones. One man in particular demonstrates and enthusiastically discusses his nurturing relationship to the street cats in his life. When he is asked about his human family, he becomes more reserved. It is as though the cultural status of these cats commands a respect which allows humans to form bonds on healthier terms, creating a therapeutic relationship which they can hopefully learn from in their human interactions. Perhaps After the Storm’s Ryota should try caring for a cat…

I know what you’re thinking now: all of your waxing philosophical is great, but I don’t love cats for their cutting cultural commentary! Worry not, dear reader! This is all presented in a nuanced and often unspoken fashion in the film. Front and center here are the stars, the wonderful cats. Torun and her crew employ everything from handheld kitty cams, to night vision, to drone footage to create what feels like an excellent nature documentary on creatures we are used to seeing domesticated. Whether these cats are pawing at restaurant windows, fighting the new cats in town, or visiting their favourite humans, they remain charming and endearing. They’re handsome, absurd, and a wonder to behold. The film captures the minutiae of the cats lives while also feeling somewhat epic in the grand cityscapes in which they climb, roam, and burrow. You haven’t seen a cat video like this, I promise.

                                                                                                                                     - Nick Malbeuf

 

Kathryn Calder of The New Pornographers in A Matter of Time.

Kathryn Calder of The New Pornographers in A Matter of Time.

Most often films dealing with illness tell you stories with very little hope, but this is completely not the case with Casey Cohen’s A Matter of Time where you’re left feeling overwhelmingly moved by the legacy Lynn Calder had left behind when she passed in 2009 after her two-year battle with ALS.

Kathryn Calder’s story is one filled with a series of incredible events, from starting out in the successful indie-pop group Immaculate Machine with support from her mother, to the entire story that lead to her becoming a member of one of the biggest Canadian groups of all time, The New Pornographers. The fact that Lynn was able to reconnect with her biological family after such a long time was arguably the most amazing part of the story. We then go from watching a family thriving and happy to all of a sudden having everything ripped out from underneath as the Calder family learns of Lynn’s ALS diagnosis. This is where you would expect to be thrown into a world of sadness, instead you watch as Kathryn along with her huge support system work to make Lynn’s last years as special as possible, and succeed fully. The album produced is beautiful and personally the title Are You My Mother? felt very fitting as Kathryn herself seems to be everything that her mother was; talented, selfless, and giving.

The film was filled with gorgeous footage of life in Western Canada and the choice to use the device of recreation for the shots of Kathryn and Lynn were done perfectly and made your connection to their story even stronger even if you, like myself, don’t have any particular experience with that type of situation. It also helped to have the back story of Lou Gehrig as context, and as Gehrig said in 1939, “I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for.”. 

                                                                                                                                      - Hillary West

 

Don’t forget to join us this Friday, April 7th for two new exciting features!  After playing Cannes, TIFF, and most recently Sundance, along with garnering an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film, we have Ma Vie de Courgette at 7pm. Then at 9pm is another Cannes-premiered film, A House on 41st Street. As with all of our special presentations of Iranian films, tickets will be $13 for this screening. Then next week, we have the documentary David Lynch: The Art Life, the critically-acclaimed documentary about the world-renowned filmmaker and artist. Get your tickets early, because it will be a popular one!

           

A MAN CALLED OVE AND WEREWOLF

Last Friday night Carbon Arc screened the darkly charming foreign language Oscar nominee, A Man Called Ove. Written and directed by Hannes Holmes, and based on the novel by the same name, this Swedish drama tells the story of a widowed man who only wants to join his wife in death. Ove visits the grave of his dead wife regularly and promises he’ll be with her soon. Sounds depressing, right? The only problem is that Ove is just not very good at dying. Apparently, if there’s one thing Ove cares about more than dying, it’s cars driving on a no-cars-permitted pathway. So, Ove must interrupt his many suicide attempts to deal with his tedious day-to-day tasks of yelling at cars and begrudgingly lending ladders to neighbors. Ove is the ex-chairman of a board for the neighborhood association, a title he had self-imposed for a job he invented, and continues to take gravely (get it?).  Essentially, Ove is the bitter 59 year-old equivalent of your middle-school hall monitor.                                                                                  

 
A bitter Ove (Rolf Lassgård) stands in the middle of the gated community pathway where cars are prohibited. 

A bitter Ove (Rolf Lassgård) stands in the middle of the gated community pathway where cars are prohibited. 

 

Through his failed attempts at killing himself, and his growing friendship with a new neighbor and her family, we learn about Ove’s past: the tragic death of his mother, the fraught relationship with his father, and the love he has for his wife Sonja. The film jumps between flashbacks of Ove’s past as he narrates his life to his new neighbor and his present trial and tribulations. In this bleak story are moments of joy and laughter, of friendship and of love. Ove is the surprisingly sweet Grinch who’s heart, we learn literally and ironically, is just too big.

                                                                                            - Chelsea Rozansky


 
Main characters Blaze (Andrew Gillis) and Nessa (Bhreagh MacNeil) of Ashley McKenzie's debut feature Werewolf.

Main characters Blaze (Andrew Gillis) and Nessa (Bhreagh MacNeil) of Ashley McKenzie's debut feature Werewolf.

 

If you've ever had the pleasure of watching any of Cape Breton director Ashley McKenzie's work, you know how well she creates storylines that focus on trying and seemingly hopeless situations. What she does even better though, is she creates truthful characters who have a strong sense of independence, never letting them fully succumb to their surroundings. The greatest example of this with her short films being Stray (2013), but this all has been perfected with her phenomenal first feature Werewolf that we screened this past Friday evening along with a Q&A afterwards with Ashley.

Werewolf follows the often overlooked stage of addiction, recovery, and as senior programmer Zack Miller pointed out in his review of the film during the Atlantic Film Festival, the unique framing helps to humanize these people for the audience rather than making them out to be monsters.  The film centres on the lives of Blaze and Nessa, two recovering addicts who both in their own ways find themselves stuck.

Blaze is too proud to let anybody tell him how to be, and takes it upon himself to lash out at anybody with an ounce of authority, automatically assuming that they’re looking down on him. We see many telling moments illustrating his selfish nature, his only moment of remorse being his reaction to his rash decision to destroy the couple’s only source of income, their lawnmower. It comes at point when hardship upon hardship has fallen on the couple and he breaks, berating himself afterwards which doesn’t necessarily feel as though he’s upset for anybody but himself. As independent as Blaze is though, and whether he cares to admit it, he relies heavily on Nessa.

Contrasting Blaze’s type of independence is Nessa and her quiet kindness and sense of responsibility that keeps her behind in her journey of recovery. She’s the stronger of the two, consistently being the one to work and is the sole reason that the couple are still afloat. As Nessa is confronted by her nurse after having her at-home doses being revoked due to Blaze stealing them, it becomes extremely clear how unfair it is to ask this girl to give up on the one person who understands her struggle and she loves. At the same time, it’s also clear that she’s being unfair to herself by letting him hold her down. Watching her leave Blaze the first time when she kicks him out of her mother’s house was empowering. Watching her leave him after he is released from hospital was even more satisfying, finally she’s free to explore the life ahead of her.

Werewolf was an incredible first feature, and feature film period, and its success worldwide is no surprise to anybody who has seen it.

                                                                                                   - Hillary West


Carbon Arc will be taking a short March break, but fear not, we return March 24th with the environmental documentary Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees as well of an encore screening of the wildly popular cat documentary Kedi on April 1st with proceeds going to the Halifax Cat Rescue Society!

Carbon Arcademy Awards

As lovers of film, we here at Carbon Arc look at Oscar night with a certain amount of respect. It's a night dedicated to celebrating films, some of which would not get widespread attention otherwise. Carbon Arc's programming often overlaps with the Academy's picks; we recently screened Best Foreign Language Film nominee Tanna, and this Friday, March 3rd we will show another of the nominees at 7pm, Sweden's A Man Called Ove

However, some of our favourite films go overlooked by the Academy each year. Thus, we have decided to take matters into our own hands for the first time! A small team of Carbon Arc's programmers, writers, volunteers, and all around cinephiles consisting of Chris Campbell, Carsten Knox, Nick Malbeuf, Zack Miller, and Hillary West teamed up to create our own awards, deemed the Arc-ademy Awards. After a round of nominations, the five of us cast our votes on a list ranging from the typical Oscar categories, and a few bonus slots. The final results reflect a slightly more eccentric taste in film to complement the movies honored by the real Academy. We hope you find some agreement with us, or use this list as a point of recommendation. So, without further ado, here are the nominees and winners from our very first Arc-ademy Awards:

Best Picture

American Honey

Cameraperson

Green Room

Lemonade

The Lobster

The Love Witch

Paterson

Things to Come

The Witch

WINNER: Moonlight

 
The much beloved film Moonlight took home Best Picture from us and the Oscars

The much beloved film Moonlight took home Best Picture from us and the Oscars

 

Best Carbon Arc Screening

Chevalier

The Fits

The Love Witch

Mustang

WINNER: Cameraperson

 

Best Foreign Film

Embrace of the Serpent

Mustang

Neruda

Things to Come

WINNER: Toni Erdmann

 

Best Documentary Film

13th

Fire at Sea

Kate Plays Christine

Weiner

WINNER: Cameraperson

 
Kirsten Johnson's debut documentary feature Cameraperson screened in our fall season of films in 2016. We liked it enough to honor it with our Best Documentary, Best Carbon Arc Screening, and Best Editing awards.

Kirsten Johnson's debut documentary feature Cameraperson screened in our fall season of films in 2016. We liked it enough to honor it with our Best Documentary, Best Carbon Arc Screening, and Best Editing awards.

 

Best Animated Film

Finding Dory

My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea

Window Horses

Zootopia

WINNER: Kubo and the Two Strings

 

Best Canadian Film

Maudie

Operation Avalance

We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice

Window Horses

WINNER: Werewolf

 
The story of a relationship struggling under the stress of a shared methadone addiction, local film Werewolf was our favourite Canadian film of the year. Join us Friday, March 3rd at 9:30pm for a screening of the film, fresh out of Berlinale. Writer/director Ashley McKenzie will be present for a Q&A.

The story of a relationship struggling under the stress of a shared methadone addiction, local film Werewolf was our favourite Canadian film of the year. Join us Friday, March 3rd at 9:30pm for a screening of the film, fresh out of Berlinale. Writer/director Ashley McKenzie will be present for a Q&A.

 

Best Director

Maren Ade – Toni Erdmann

Anna Biller – The Love Witch

Pablo Larrain – Jackie/Neruda/The Club

Jeremy Saulnier – Green Room

WINNER: Barry Jenkins - Moonlight

 

Best Original Screenplay

Efthymis Filippou, Yorgos Lanthimos – The Lobster

Mia Hansen-Love – Things to Come

Jim Jarmusch - Paterson

Taylor Sheridan – Hell or High Water

WINNER: Maren Ade – Toni Erdmann

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Xavier Dolan – It’s Only the End of the World

Eric Heisserer – Arrival

Whit Stillman – Love & Friendship

August Wilson – Fences

WINNER: Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney – Moonlight

 

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Annette Bening – 20th Century Women

Sasha Lane – American Honey

Ruth Negga – Loving

Natalie Portman – Jackie

WINNER: Isabelle Huppert – Things to Come

 
Although the Academy nominated Isabelle Huppert for her work in Elle, we preferred her performance in Mia Hansen-Løve's Things to Come.

Although the Academy nominated Isabelle Huppert for her work in Elle, we preferred her performance in Mia Hansen-Løve's Things to Come.

 

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Adam Driver – Paterson

Colin Farrell – The Lobster

Daniel Radcliffe – Swiss Army Man

Trevante Rhodes – Moonlight

WINNER: Denzel Washington - Fences

 

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Viola Davis – Fences

Golshifteh Farahani – Paterson

Naomie Harris – Moonlight

Janelle Monae – Moonlight/Hidden Figures

WINNER: Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women

 

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Alden Ehrenreich – Hail, Caesar!

Ralph Fiennes – A Bigger Splash

John Goodman – 10 Cloverfield Lane

John Hurt – Jackie

WINNER: Mahershala Ali - Moonlight

 

Best Ensemble Cast

American Honey

A Bigger Splash

Hail, Caesar!

The Witch

WINNER: Moonlight

 

Best Cinematography

Jarin Blaschke - The Witch

Natasha Braier – Neon Demon

James Laxton – Moonlight

Bradford Young – Arrival

WINNER: Chung-hoon Chung – The Handmaiden

 
Park Chan-Wook's gorgeous romantic period thriller was shut out of the Oscars technical categories, but we couldn't resist it's cinematography.

Park Chan-Wook's gorgeous romantic period thriller was shut out of the Oscars technical categories, but we couldn't resist it's cinematography.

 

 

Best Editing

Joi McMillon, Nat Sanders – Moonlight

Sebastian Sepulveda -Jackie

 Joe Walker – Arrival

WINNER (TIE):

Nels Bangerter - Cameraperson

Louise Ford – The Witch

 

Best Original Score

Beyoncé – Lemonade

Nicholas Britell – Moonlight

Mark Korven – The Witch

Dario Marianelli – Kubo & the Two Strings

WINNER: Mica Levi – Jackie

 

Best Costume Design

Madeline Fontaine – Jackie

Linda Muir – The Witch

Eimer Ní Mhaoldomhnaigh – Love & Friendship

Mary Zophres – Hail, Caesar!

WINNER: Anna Biller – The Love Witch

 
While writing, directing, producing, editing, scoring, and set designing, The Love Witch's Anna Biller  also found time to design our favourite costumes of the year. The film had a special Halloween screening at our cinema last fall.

While writing, directing, producing, editing, scoring, and set designing, The Love Witch's Anna Biller  also found time to design our favourite costumes of the year. The film had a special Halloween screening at our cinema last fall.

 

 Best Hair & Make-up

Jackie

The Love Witch

Star Trek Beyond

Swiss Army Man

WINNER: Hail, Caesar!

 
George Clooney breaks the fourth wall in the Coen brothers underappreciated film Hail, Caesar!

George Clooney breaks the fourth wall in the Coen brothers underappreciated film Hail, Caesar!

 

 Best Production Design

Anna Biller – The Love Witch

Dante Ferretti – Silence

Craig Lathrop - The Witch

Jean Rabasse – Jackie

WINNER: Jess Gonchor – Hail, Caesar!

 

Best Visual Effects

Arrival

The Jungle Book

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Star Trek Beyond

WINNER: Kubo and the Two Strings

 

Best Sound Editing

Arrival

The Fits

Jackie

Moonlight

WINNER: The Witch

 

Best Sound Mixing

10 Cloverfield Lane

The Handmaiden

La La Land

Moonlight

WINNER: Arrival

 

Best Original Song

 “Able” – Hidden Figures

 “Audition” – La La Land

“Equal Rights” – Popstar

“How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

WINNER: “I’m So Humble” - Popstar

 

Best “That Guy” Appearance (Best Character Actor)

Adam Driver – Midnight Special

Billy Crudup – Jackie/20th Century Women

WINNER: John Carroll Lynch – The Invitation/The Founder/Jackie

 

We hope you enjoyed our picks for the year! If not, we are always happy to discuss at our Friday night screenings!

Neruda and Inversion

Pablo Larrain had a busy 2016. Carbon Arc screened the Chilean director's first release of the year, The Club, in the spring. Later in the year his Kennedy-era drama Jackie opened to much praise for its star, Natalie Portman, who garnered an Oscar nomination. (Jackie opened on Halifax's Cineplex screens in early February.) Somewhere in there, Larrain found the time to complete Neruda, the charmingly wry story of the Chilean poet and statesman, Pablo Neruda, and the fictional policeman who pursued him across the country when the communist Neruda was declared persona non grata by the government.

 
Luis Gnecco stars as the title character in Neruda

Luis Gnecco stars as the title character in Neruda

 

Having seen these three films, I've been wowed by Larrain's confidence as a storyteller and how he adjusts the texture of his imagery to suit the tone: The Club was awash in blue, a gloomy, low-contrast look to suit its guilty characters, while Jackie is punctuated with moments quite like early-'60s newsreel. Neruda is drenched in sepia and lens flare, the camera prowling in circles around its cast. This is as far from a conventional biopic as I can imagine, a comedic examination of a moment in history that doubles as a consideration of stories, of protagonists, antagonists, and supporting characters. It's also a sly look at celebrity, how in 1948 the poet was a rock star who cast a glow upon everyone around him. Curiously, Neruda starts as a political thriller before becoming a chase drama and finally resolving as a western. It's a total delight, and the sold-out audience on Friday night seemed to concur.

- Carsten Knox


On Saturday, Carbon Arc had the privilege of partnering once again with the Phoenix Cultural Centre to program an Iranian film. Outside of international darling Asghar Farhadi it's rare for cultural exports from that country to make it to screens in Halifax; when we were approached to screen Me last season we couldn't pass up the opportunity. The selection this time around was Inversion, a drama from writer-director Behnam Behzadi that debuted in Un Certain Regard at Cannes. The story follows Niloofar, a business owner in Tehran whose mother is forced to leave the city when high levels of pollution leave her with a life-threatening respiratory disease. 

 
Sahar Dolatshahi as Niloofar and Ali Mosaffa as her brother Farhad in Inversion

Sahar Dolatshahi as Niloofar and Ali Mosaffa as her brother Farhad in Inversion

 

When Niloofar's siblings unilaterally decide that she will be the one to give up her career and take care of their mother, Behzadi's script traces an escalating family conflict that unfolds through dialogue dripping with tension and tinged with social issues. (In this sense, Behzadi and Farhadi are not just countrymen, but thematic bedfellows as well). Beyond the numerous scenes that take place inside a car — I wonder where all the pollution is coming from? — Tehran is rendered in a thick, grey haze. While Inversion is never so overtly political as to paint the views of Niloofar's family as outdated or regressive, it does slyly suggest that decades of accumulated cultural norms may be clouding their judgement. The pace flags a bit in places, notably in a stretch where Niloofar ignores near-constant phone calls from a male suitor, but strong performances and capable direction keep it afloat to deliver another enjoyable entry in the Iranian cinema oeuvre.

- Zack Miller