Monday, May 26, 2014


Since its 2012 debut, curated by the Walker Art Center of Minnesota, the Internet Cat Video has played to sold out audiences around the world. Devoted to the best in cat-themed YouTube videos, Just for Cats, offers audiences a fun opportunity to join fellow feline fanatics in experiencing these cuddly cat videos in the shared space of a cinema.

Staring Lil BUB, Grumpy Cat, NONONONO cat, keyboard cat, and most internationally known pusses. The evening will also feature some local kitties. This is a special one-night-only fundraising screening for the Guelph Human Society.


7:00 VIP Gala Screening
all seats $45.00
Includes a pre-show reception from 6:00 - 7:00

9:00 General Admission Screening
all seats $17.50

For ALL TICKET SALES to this event
Please visit EVENTBRITE.CA
or call the Guelph Human Society 519-824-3091

Sunday, May 25, 2014


Edward Scissorhands is the only film in his career (aside from his Frankenweenie remake) that Tim Burton produced, wrote the story for, and directed. Perhaps because of this creative control and singularity of vision, it remains his best film. It's Burton at his Burtoniest, before he became overly self-conscious of his own style and the expectations thereto. Pee-Wee hinted at it, Beetlejuice pioneered it, Batman appropriated it, but Edward perfected it, solidifying Burton-esque as a new and exciting aesthetic in cinema.

Right from the opening credits, his filmic fingerprints are all over the movie. The titles slice across the screen while the camera pans steadily through a shadowy assembly line to a frighteningly epic, factory-march musical score. Burton uses this exact same opening in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sweeney Todd.

Then there’s the darkly clad and mysterious anti-hero, the brassy and choral score, the Gothic mansion, dusty staircases, looming statues, imposing backdrops, giant cogs, small town gossip, xenophobia, isolation, cobwebs, death, cavernous set pieces, absurdist humour, miniature models of houses, anthropomorphic machinery, and, of course, a healthy dose of Depp.

But unlike much of his later work, Edward Scissorhands is not Burtony for the sake of being Burtony. It is not straining to look creepy and twisted, like all Tim Burton films apparently have to. Edward uses his Gothic aesthetic to deepen character and create contrast, and everything shown on screen enhances the telling of his story. Edward’s gargantuan mansion, perched atop the absurdly huge hill overlooking the town, is miles taller than any of the pastel bungalows below. It’s full of darkened corridors and bulbous robots, and the secluded garden, with its majestic shrub-giants, is stunningly beautiful – but the house is not there just to look cool (although, to be clear, it looks super freakin cool). The mansion is a visual representation of the isolation Edward feels from the rest of the town.

Edward Scissorhands succeeds in all aspects. Every corner of this film is meticulously crafted and elevates the whole into something more than just a good movie. This is one of those perfect storms wherein all the pieces come triumphantly together and a visionary storyteller working at the top of his game is able to express something unique, enduring, and undiluted. This is a special movie.

For starters, the acting is deceptively first-rate. Johnny Depp, with his stilted movements, solid black contact lenses, and perpetually pursed lips gives a wonderfully reserved yet touching performance. He has a difficult task in Edward, but he walks the lines between slapstick and sensitivity, human and machine, weirdo and everyman, with remarkable deftness. When I think of the vastness of Depp's range (and yes, I sometimes do), I put Edward on one end and Hunter Thompson on the other – with Ed Wood somewhere in the middle.

Dianne Wiest and Alan Arkin are both pitch-perfect as the suburban mom and dad. Here are two great actors fleshing out what could be forgettable supporting roles with performances that add humour and humanity to the film. Peggy Boggs is almost nauseatingly perky (a side effect of being an Avon lady, surely), but Wiest colours her with bouts of sudden frustration atop a calm undercurrent of motherly kindness. Arkin is terrific as the quintessential Dad, oblivious to most things save for ball games, fiscal responsibility and ethical pop-quizes. Often, in my head, I hear Bill Boggs belting out “I Saw Three Ships” as he staples sheets of fake snow to his roof in the night.

Kathy Baker does a great job as the libidinous Joyce, representing the gossipy, fickle townspeople who are desperate for, yet terrified of, change. A surprisingly bulky Anthony Michael Hall is suitably eruptive and douchey as the villainous boyfriend, Jim. And of course, in his last feature film, Vincent Price is the perfect choice for Edward's reclusive, eccentric inventor. Price is delightful in his few scenes, until his character prophetically collapses on the mansion floor, dead. Though they only worked together twice, Burton and Price pair so well together that it feels like he is somewhere to be found in all of Burton's worlds, plotting away in an old mansion somewhere just off screen.

Even Winona Ryder, in all her doe-eyed yearning, delivers a nice arc for Kim. She begins as a self-absorbed teenager who hates this grotesque stranger who has invaded her home – as no doubt a teenager would – but by the end of the film she softens to the point of loving Edward in all his oddity. Ignoring her unfortunate scenes as old Kim which bookend the film (why Burton insisted on Ryder playing that part is another of the film’s glorious mysteries) she is solid and moves believably from obnoxious to sweet to lovely.

Yet the acting doesn't necessarily leap out as being brilliant in this film, only because every other aspect is executed so well. The score is powerful and moving, another highlight in Burton’s career-long collaboration with Danny Elfman. Like the film, it oscillates between light and dark, with ethereal, choral tones, and deep, driving percussion and brass.

Despite being a bizarre fantasy, Edward contains real emotional poignancy. The inventor’s death, moments before he can complete his creation, is tragic. When Kim asks why he broke into Jim’s house when he knew she was lying to him, Edward’s response of "because you asked me to” is an exceptionally heart-wrenching moment (not to mention his classic response to Kim asking him to hold her in his arms: “…I can’t.”). But Edward is also remarkably funny. This is helped by the fact the actors never play up the humour (with the possible exception of Kathy Baker). They play the surreal, suburban concerns of their small town society with utter honesty. In the same way, after Edward uncovers his talents as a barber, the townsfolk spend the remainder of the movie sporting insanely elaborate, sculpted hair-dos, but attention is never called to it. It's up to the audience to notice and appreciate.

The pacing of the film is finely tuned. Immediately we are introduced to the bleak, muted world of the suburbs, to Peggy, to Edward's mansion, to Edward, and after only fifteen minutes he has been brought to the Boggs' home and thrust upon the town. Then we slow down and stay with Edward, seeing the town through his eyes. It's not until half an hour later that we meet young Kim, the love interest and driving force of much of the film’s subsequent action. At this point we already know Edward and are on his side. The film ramps up a tad unnaturally at the very end, to a somewhat clichéd climactic action scene between hero and villain, but the story has been so skillfully told throughout that this, presumably, can be forgiven.

The costume and set design in Edward is phenomenal and very possibly its crowning achievement. Although it was only nominated for a best makeup Oscar, it won the BAFTA for best production design in 1990 (leave it to the Brits to get it right). The production design is gorgeously eye-popping, but it somehow doesn't overshadow the film or take away from the story.

Edward showcases two worlds: the eerie setting of Edward’s mansion, and the vacuous, Easter-egg-coloured neighbourhood below. The houses are cookie cut-outs of each other, distinguishable only by the various pastel paints on the exterior. The rest of town is equally bleak and oppressive. The police cars have merely the word “POLICE” unimaginatively written on their sides, and a singular, imposing “BANK” sign in massive, dirty capitals sits atop the bank’s entrance. There seems to be no shade along the streets, no trees (though lots of shrubs), and the suburban bungalows squat low beneath an oppressively monochrome sky. Even the cars and costumes of the townsfolk follow the pastel colour palette, with lots of neon slacks and floral dresses. The living rooms are exaggeratedly large and empty, revealing the hollowness of the lives of those inside them.

Although it’s all greys and blacks and shadows, the dark world of the inventor’s mansion turns out to be far more colourful than the rest of the town, aligning the audience’s empathy with Edward, the outsider. The contrast of these two worlds beautifully displays the disconnect between him and the rest of ‘normal’ society. Despite his earnest efforts, the town is unwilling to overcome their fear of the unknown, and Edward cannot fit in. Near the end of the film he storms down the street, literally tearing apart the shackles of the conformist world (his suburban clothes and suspenders) with the power of his unique artistry (his scissorhands, in case it needs to be said).

Seven of Burton’s last nine films have been remakes (!), but despite being 25 years old next year, Edward Scissorhands remains utterly inimitable. Nor is it dated. The visual effects, made entirely with models and animatronics and painted backdrops, still hold up. And since the film is an exaggerated impression of suburbia and not a realistic recreation, it will remain timeless. I would also call it a masterpiece.

I believe Edward is Burton, infecting the dull, repetitive society of Hollywood with his ominous artwork. He transforms the uninspired landscape, leaving behind monuments to his artistic novelty. At first he is sought after and adored and emulated, until the society turns its back on him (sometime around Ed Wood, I’d say) and pretends they never loved him in the first place.

Co-story writer Caroline Thompson calls this film a fable. I guess she would know. According to her, a fable “is a story that people don't necessarily believe, but that they understand”. This is as pure a definition of fable as I’ve ever heard, and an accuarate description of the movie. Most directly Edward Scissorhands is a fable explaining where snow comes from – although the film does not address how Edward gets his scissorhands on all those mammoth blocks of ice sitting in the attic of his mansion. And nor should it.

More importantly though, Edward is a beautiful and touching fable about being different, about owning your oddity and how fitting in is not always possible, or even preferable. It’s about how the desire for being accepted and loved is often misinterpreted. And how that which makes you special, also makes you alone.

Though Benjamin Lancaster lives in Toronto, he will always have been born in Guelph. He writes mostly fiction, but will write non-fiction if his friends ask him to, or if he thinks he might get money for it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


It is so hard to judge La Bohème with any objectivity. Anyone into opera will have noticed this piece is practically omnipresent, and bits of its music have come to permeate the more popular end of the classical music landscape. This may lead some to accuse Puccini of cheapness and facileness. On the contrary. For once the highest art has been wrought with just the right touch to make it irresistible to just about anybody. Any cheapness comes from the generations of arrangers and composers who have copied it: especially its orchestration, which was even "distilled" into "elevator music", once ubiquitous in post-war department stores and supermarkets. Those sweet strains playing a vague tune you could never make out were frequently in exactly Puccini's harmonizations/orchestrations.

No, Puccini is the real thing as a creator. By the time he gets to doing La Bohème in his career, his musical skills, especially his 'melos', have reached mastery, and everything in him has come together to produce this perfectly simple masterpiece.

Not so simple, really, but the complexities and subtleties are all there to render this as naturalistic a portrayal of real life as possible. It is therefore the ultimate 'Verismo' opera. Absolutely nothing but normal diurnal reality is portrayed.

Playing to the highest echelons of society as it always has, opera is amazingly enamoured with risqué themes, and moral questionings underlying so many of its plots. It so exerts a constant pressure of change upon culture.

In La Bohème we get a slice of contemporary life amongst a social group that most bourgeois people would have agreed, a the time the piece was written, is "beyond the pale." The story is really quite dreary if you completely forget the music. A group of destitute artists are freezing in in the Latin Quarter of Paris on Christmas eve. They elude their landlord looking for rent and then decide to go out. They are all artists of various types and they all try to take each other's minds off their destitute condition with banter and pretense. Schaunard the musician tells them he will treat them all and they leave.

The poet Rodolfo stays behind and a neighbour, Mimi, comes looking for a light. The scene unfolds with perfectly gauged developments: the candle gets lit, she faints, she loses her key, the candles go out, they grope in the dark, touch. These are somehow archetypal moves and remind most of us of our first fumbling encounters in reaching out for love to another person. Things move quickly from there, and, as in all the great operas, the pair discover that they are both in the love of their life.

Rodolfo hears that Mimi is a seamstress, and she describes her life and humble condition with heartbreaking modesty and unassuming sweetness. Puccini is the master of such moments of portrayal.

On the way down the stairs to meet Rodolfo's friends we hear the immortal strains of the lovers voices entwining in the initial raptures of love. It is of course the music that suggests and emphasizes all these wonderfully human passions, how they kindle, sustain and grow, as it subtly flows from the orchestra in a seeming inexhaustibility of melody and colour. Nobody hearing this opera, at this point ever worries about the dubious laxness of proper social convention displayed by these louche characters. The music overwhelms us with its sympathy.

The Second Act street scene has even more shocking displays of 'loose' Parisian life. We see an elaborate set showing a Paris street and the Café Momus. [This act can be expanded into a major production number, depending the resources of the house and budget.] There are vendors, ragamuffin children, crowds, and finally a military band. We meet Musetta, a singer, former lover of the group's writer, Marcello. Musetta is obviously escort to a sugar-daddy. She diverts the sugar daddy and goes off with Marcello again, whom she truly does loves. The sugar-daddy is amusingly left paying everyone's bill.

In Act Three, we see the further evolution of these passionate affairs. The plot has such a sense of reality in the way it develop, that many people, oddly, hardly remember the details. What sticks in most people's mind is the music's capturing of mood and setting outside the gates of Paris on a winter morning. There is always falling snow and a fabulous sustained mood of gradually increasing morning activity.

Musetta and Marcello are living in a small porter's cottage. Rodolfo is there after having left Mimi again after arguing and jealousy, but we discover he is really worried about her health. She seems to be dying and he hopes she can find a better benefactor to her than he can be. She overhears this, and they decide to have it out, that they have to split up, and hopefully remain friends, but they decide to defer their breakup until the spring. As counterpoint we hear the other couple, Musetta and Marcello arguing.

The cast of this act is so real. It deals with the inevitable demise of all relationships in the test of time, an understanding we do not like to pursue. This is what happens after "for ever after" in many people's lives, especially today in our modern culture when most marriages are assumed to have only a limited time span--ideally enough time to allow the kids to reach puberty or University.

There is a painful psychological honesty about the the depiction of these breakups. At the beginning of the 20th Century many would still have been shocked at the ease at with which these couples became intimate without wedlock and then split up so easily, being horrified by such a moral chaos, but nowadays our cultural standards expect shorter commitments even within the conventions of marriage.

La Bohème presents a morality we now are all used to.

The heartrending last Act shows us the famous demise, back at the garret, of Mimi, after she has come to die there of her consumptive ailment. Many were quick to notice the similarity with Verdi's La Traviata of a generation earlier, but the class element has been removed, and the lovers are separated by the women's consumption in both cases.
La Bohème we are confronted by the fragility of life and youth and beauty, and that last act is so beautifully, inexorably built up to Mimi's death. No matter how many times I turn on this last act accidentally on the radio, I can't turn it off, and must listen through the agonizing pauses before Rodolfo cries out "Mimi!" when he realizes she is dead. And it always makes me cry at least a little bit.

Michael Doleschell keeps mostly to non-fiction, and is deeply devoted to music and culture and never tires of history, and is fascinated by science and the scientific method [as long as they are well explained]. He broadcasts a program of Classical Music for 3 hours every Saturday afternoon from noon till 3 on the U of G's Radio Station: CFRU.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


On the surface, Jodorowsky's Dune is a whimsical documentary covering the pre-production and ultimate failure of a wildly imaginative, 14-hour film adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic science fiction novel Dune. But if you happen to be, as I am, demographically prone to being seduced by the "far out" and fantastic; and you contract the contagious fervor of Alejandro Jodorowsky as he glowingly recounts this period of his life in a thick Chilean accent, waving his hands about with eyes gleaming wide and the grin of a Jungian trickster; if you allow yourself to see Jodorowsky as he sees himself--the mystical shaman, the mad man from the mountains--then Frank Pavich's documentary spirals out into an immense intergalactic tale in its own right. From Jodorowsky's angle, this is the story of humanity's near miss with  collective spiritual enlightenment, with Dune as his holy sacrament. "I want to create a prophet," Jodo' exclaims. “For me, Dune will become the coming of a God”.

Jodorowsky in The Holy Mountain
Early in his career, the now 85 year old Chilean-French filmmaker had conquered the global art house film circuit of the late 60's and early 70's. His cult classics, like the violent and absurd psychedelic western El Topo, and the drug induced opus The Holy Mountain (funded in part by John Lennon), had granted Jodorowsky the power and prestige to produce whatever film he desired next. He chose Dune.

Pre-production for his Dune peaked around 1975, a year widely agreed to be the end of the "Psychedelic" era. Western civilization had endured a decade long attack, an outright chemical war in the form of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, or LSD. This potent new man-made psychoactive chemical was polluting young minds, opening them up to the hedonistic demons of eastern spirituality, and expanding their ideals beyond the range of nationalistic pride, sexual boundaries, and ego based identity. And if the dose was large enough, LSD blasted them out beyond the stratus of earth itself, further into the realm of the collective unconscious and the universal imagination than any decent God-fearing mind had ever been.

By the mid 70’s, the Beatles had broken up, the war in Vietnam was over, and man had landed on the moon. An effective antidote to the hippie counter-culture was promptly concocted and unleashed: A potent combination of cocaine, disco, and a healthy middle class. Psychedelic drugs receded back from whence they came, to the shadowy world of philosophers, intellectuals, and artists, and left behind a trail of timeless and “out of this world” works of visual art, music, films, and literature.

One of the great works to emerge out of the fog and fever of the late 60's came Frank Herbert's novel Dune, published in 1966. Dune quickly became one of the highest regarded science fiction works of all time and was considered to be widely influenced by psychedelic substances and their effects on society. 

In the "Duneiverse" (not sure if that's actually a term, but I like it) the drug "Spice Melange" has become the most valuable interstellar commodity. “Spice” grants its users extended life times, increased vitality, hyper-awareness and, in some individuals, produces a trance-like state in which past and future events are envisioned allowing for safe interstellar travel. Heavy use of “Spice” causes extreme dependency and evolutionary mutations. For a man like Jodorowsky, it is easy to see the allure of Dune, even though he claims he never read it: "I didn’t read Dune," he says in the documentary, "But I have a friend who say me it was fantastic."

Not unlike the users of “Spice”, Jodo intended for his film to trigger a mutation in its viewers “To change the young minds of all the world”, to bring about Nietzsche’s Übermensch, the future Superman. Users of psychedelics like LSD often describe feeling almost "super human" or "alien" in their heightened abilities to perceive reality. They describe seeing fuller spectrums of colour and sound, visions of vast complex geometric fields, and feeling a heightened sense of oneness, empathy, and spiritual understanding. It's also fairly common for "trippers" to return convinced that psychedelics hold the power to save the planet if only everyone would just take them but a few times. They hold the key to transforming our society into a more peace loving, harmonious utopia, and usher in the mythical age of Aquarius. Jodorowsky, infusing his work with the visual and conceptual hallmarks of psychedelia, hoped his Dune would have the same effect. "I wanted to make a film that would give the people who took LSD, hallucinations, but not LSD to be taken. The film was going to change public’s perceptions."

Amongst "the squares" and "the norms" of the day, a genuine fear emerged. To them the Age of Aquarius signified an apocalyptic nightmare realm, Satan's kingdom on earth. The "hippies" were going to poison the water supply with LSD (and probably patchouli oil), and ruin America, an act of terror which would bring about the end of the western world, plunging it into an orgiastic hell pit of distorted guitars and free love. This fear was played out in the ultra kitsch mainstream Hollywood film Wild in the Streets (1968), where hippie youth dose all of America with LSD, take over the White House, install LSD concentration camps, and enforce a maximum age limit for American citizens.

Giger's Alien-like concept art
While watching this documentary, it is obvious that Jodorowsky had a complete belief in himself and in his ability to enlighten the world. He managed to gather together some of the greatest artists and musicians of the time to take part in his quest, some even selling their belongings and relocating to his rented castle in France. Not only was he able to convince his fellow "spiritual warriors" to join him in his battle, enlisting the likes of H.R. Giger, Salvador Dali, and Pink Floyd to name a few, but it also seemed that the will of the earth herself was on Jodorowsky side, conspiring along with him, helping to see the film to completion. Coincidence after coincidence, "Everything became perfect, when we were doing this picture"

Sadly, when it came to time to pitch his 14 hour epic for production, even Jodo's dream team and the will of the universe were no match for the astronomically diabolical Hollywood studios. While they were interested in the project itself, none wanted Jodorowsky to be involved in the production whatsoever, likely based on his reputation as an absurdest, provocateur, wild man, and an icon of the drug counter-culture. Instead, Star Wars happened. And we all know how that went.

This documentary plays like a work of "alternate history”, a genre offshoot of science fiction like Philip K. Dick's Man in the High Castle, which depicts a world in which the Nazis and Japan have won WW2 and have divided America between them. Similarly, Jodorowsky's Dune asks you to imagine a world where mad men, mystics, and the feverishly creative are given the freedom and access to production budgets generally reserved for the sane and safe (like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg); a world where the vale between the Jungian collective unconscious and the material world is paper thin, and creative transmigration between the two realms is not just welcomed, but coaxed out by an arts culture and community that is its harmonic equivalent. This possible-future's-past was a near miss once, but like a commit orbiting the earth, perhaps it will come back around again, and hit us dead on.

Colin Harrington is a Guelph-based multimedia artist, audio/visual technician, and aspiring filmmaker. He is currently in pre-production for his first feature length film. His band is Adverteyes:


Family Photos represents a selection of images over the course of our careers (to whatever extent that is for each of us) on film and digital, from our shitty point & shoot cameras or dollar store disposables, medium format and heavy DSLs.

The theme is our lives, mostly. We take pictures of everything: friends, our cats, the light in our rooms, each other.

Join Andrew Beveridge, Claire Ward-Beveridge and Hannah Ward-Beveridge at the opening of their photography exhibit. Friday May 16, 7pm - 10pm. For all the pertinent into, come HERE.

Monday, May 5, 2014

“Cut” and other Edward Scissorhands-themed Guelph Movie Club jokes

The Guelph Movie Club selection for May is Edward Scissorhands. It’s the story of a young, robot man with scissors for hands who just wants to belong – he’s the modern everyman. It’s not unlike Movie Club, if you think about it. What we try (very hard, I might add) is to create a place – a sense of belonging – for people who love movies.

Admit it, you cried a little just now.

Another thing we try very hard to do with Movie Club is get better, to make it something you folks won’t want to miss each month. Over the course of the next few months, you’re going to see us try new things: theme months, special pre/post-show events, prizes, and so on. We hope you’ll tell us what tickles your fancy.

Without further ado, we’re devoting June to Quentin Tarantino. Use the poll below to pick your favourite.

(Note that you can only vote once. After that, the poll won't appear when you view this blog.)

Results will be revealed before we watch Edward Scissorhands.

One more thing before I go. The Bookshelf is great. They let me run Movie Club. They let us watch the movies we want. For those reasons and many more, I want to make sure they get as good as they give. So please, come out on the last Thursday of every month and bring your friends. Let’s make Movie Club a winner for them so they can continue to make it happen for us.

'Til then, see you at the movies!