Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Here’s a joke: I’ve never been John Malkovich, have you? Then you and I can both be John Malkovich when Guelph Movie Club screens Being John Malkovich on February 25th at 9:00 p.m. It didn’t say it was a good joke. OK, it’s a terrible joke, but it’s not like we’re showing Being Don Rickles, or something.

This is another one I’ve never seen. I say this every time we show a movie I’ve never seen, but it’s one of my favourite things about Movie Club – the opportunity to share an, as yet, unseen movie on the big screen with you. 

If you’re new to Guelph Movie Club, here’s how it works. At each of our screenings, we ask for suggestions. We turn those suggestions into polls. Those polls decide what goes up on the screen each month. We’re calling this month’s poll: It Came From Above. We'll announce the results at the screening of Being John Malkovich.

What Will We Watch in March?


That’s it for this month. See you on the 25th at 9:00 p.m. Bring a friend.

Till then, see you at the movies,

Danny W.

Monday, February 15, 2016


When Do The Right Thing was released in 1989 a few white film critics worried that Spike Lee's film about the hottest day of the summer in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood, which crescendos with a racially charged riot, would incite its audiences (implied black) to similarly riot. "Of course," writes Jason Bailey retrospectively in The Atlantic, "as we now know, Lee's canny examination of race relations did not incite riots in America's cities after it was released in the summer of 1989. Those riots came three years later, in spring of 1992—in response to a very different film, of four white officers beating the hell out of a black man, and to the acquittal of those officers by a (mostly white) jury."

The few wrongheaded critics severely misunderstood and underestimated both Lee and his audience. While full of passion and questions and not shy about articulating and referencing histories of imbalance and abuse, Do The Right Thing is not incendiary. It's got anger, yes, but it's not, itself, an angry film. Newsweek presaged the film would be "dynamite under every seat", when, in fact, Do The Right Thing is an expert disassembly of a bomb, a detailed schematic of the explosive situation that America – not just its black citizenry – finds itself in. 

But let's consider Do The Right Thing as a film before we consider it as any sort of statement. As a big personality, Lee has always run the risk of overshadowing his own work, and as a result he's often considered more a commentator than filmmaker. But as pure cinema, Lee's third film is inimitably energetic and fun. Roving through the niches of the Bed-Stuy block, meeting its varied groups – a mix of individuals and choruses – Do The Right Thing takes its tone from classic Hollywood. The on-location Brooklyn takes on the feeling of an expansive soundstage set, giving the film a contained, theatrical vibe. The day-in-a-life span of the story and the to-camera monologuing intensifies the Hollywood Golden Age feel.  In this first phase of his career, Lee was such an enthusiastic and unabashedly stylish filmmaker. Lee's purview and politics are of course important, but to watch his films as simply soapboxes is to deny yourself the full scope of his prowess.

While the commandment-sounding title might make Do The Right Thing seem didactic, the film is essentially interrogative. The big question being, well, what's the right thing to do? This one block in Bed-Stuy becomes a simulation for race relations throughout the country, as races, cultures, generations, and businesses argue their right to be there. The other essential question is asked: To whom does the neighbourhood belong?  Who has more right to be there? In a predominately black neighbourhood, the two primary businesses are an Italian pizza shop – Sal's Famous – that's been in operation for 25 years and a newly opened Korean-owned corner store. The population itself is a mix of black, Hispanic, and the few gentrification-threatening white Celtics fans. Who owes what to whom? Racism is present from the get-go, but its familiar, harmless-feeling; the collateral damage of different cultures living in such a small space. 

The blatant racism is key to Do the Right Thing. Lee equips all his characters with invective, strings of which get shot out before the final turn to violence. By displaying a stain of hate and resentment – themselves indicative of feelings of superiority – Lee brings us into the apparently controversial crescendo without any heros and villains.

The first jostle of the block's balance comes in Sal's Famous, which features a wall of fame featuring Italians of note, when a young man – Buggin' Out – points out, almost in passing, that a business with an almost exclusively black clientele should feature a few "brothers on the wall." “This is my pizzeria," Sal explains, "American-Italians on the wall only.” It's this fracturing of disparity, and this question about inclusivity and community onus, that – under the pressure of the hottest day of the year, ostensibly – that will, by the end tear the neighbourhood apart.

Exacerbation leads to lines being drawn, allegiances being made. A brawl finally breaks out between the Public Enemy-blasting Radio Raheem (who borrows The Night of the Hunters love/hate tattoos) and famous Sal. When the police show up, Radio is seen as the aggressor and chocked to death by the NYPD – a reference to the 1983 chocking of graffiti artist Michael Stewart, but decimatingly still relevant. In response, the black residents of the block destroy Sal's Famous – a conflagration triggered by the character with allegiances to the whole block: the pizza delivery boy, Mookie (played by Lee).

Upon its release, many critics sided with Sal, effectively valuing the damage of white property over the loss of black life. The consensus: Mookie did not do the right thing. In a move that seemed to echo the lost point, Danny Aiello received the Oscar for Best Supporting Role in an overwhelming black film – another passing detail that has never not become an issue.

The film ends with quotes from both Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X, the former making a plea for peace, the latter leaving the door open for violence when necessary. Given these two competing purviews, it's confounding that anyone would misunderstand Lee's film as a blunt statement instead of an articulate and entertaining opening of what has always been and'll always be a difficult as hell conversation. What, given the country's hemmed-in mix of histories and priorities, is the right thing to do? The fact that Do the Right Thing still feels so fresh and relevant suggests that, in the 25 years since the film came out, no one has yet figured out exactly what the right thing to do is. 

We're only left with the resonating demand of Samuel L. Jackson's Mister Senor Love Daddy: "YA NEED TO COOL THAT SHIT OUT! And that's the double truth, Ruth."

- Andrew

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


I’m sure that you’ve heard this before – “You have to meet so and so.” You might be one of those types whose defenses go up immediately. But this is a matchmaking in the unreal world of cinema. So relax, you will never meet these characters and I can confidently say that you have to meet the Patels! They are a lively immigrant family with one foot in the wonderfully rich cultural heritage of India and the other mired in the pressures of the American dream.

Ravi and Geeta are siblings. Ravi has just broken up with his Caucasian girlfriend of two years whom his parents know nothing about. Geeta is the cinematographer and she wields her camera with a terrific zeal, documenting a year in which her parents and all of their many friends and family across the U.S. try to find Ravi a wife. Poor Ravi. He is committed to this project and his exploits make you realize that truth is often wilder than fiction.

One very interesting aspect of the movie was the casual racist subtext – or not even subtext but text. At one point Ravi’s aunt says something like “I will never visit your home if you marry a white girl.” This movie lets it all hang out and you are along for the ride.

Even Variety, the mouthpiece for Hollywood, liked meeting the Patels! "Geeta V. Patel and Ravi V. Patel's documentary offers a sharp, often riotously funny take on the conflicts and compromises that all culturally nebulous families must navigate.”

Meet the Patels is back by popular demand,  Monday Jan 18th and Tuesday Jan 19th, both showings at 9pm!

- Barb

Sunday, January 10, 2016


The January Guelph Movie Club presentation of The Matrix marks our third birthday. That’s right. Three years ago this month, I stood at the front of The Cinema and announced that yes, Guelph Movie Club was a thing, a movie thing where we showed movies, movies we loved that deserved another turn on the big screen. Then we watched Ghostbusters.

This month, we’re showing The Matrix. At least four of you are saying – this very second – that the two sequels ruin the movie for you. And, the Wachowskis haven’t made anything good since. And, so on.

To you I say, “Cool your jets.” Come back with me to the magical year of 1999. It was a simpler time before George W. Bush and Survivor. If, like me, you saw this during its original theatrical run, then this might have been a movie that came out of nowhere and blew your socks off. It might not seem like it now because a million movies have aped its tropes, but The Matrix stands up as something kinda special.

And kinda special movies are what Guelph Movie Club is all about. So, join us on January 28th at 9:00 at The Bookshelf Cinema. I promise to make at least one kung fu joke, and, if someone reminds me, tell you the story about the first time I saw The Matrix in theatre.

If you’re new to Guelph Movie Club, here’s how it works. At each of our screenings, we ask for suggestions. We turn those suggestions into polls. Those polls decide what goes up on the screen each month. Here's our Oscar snub poll. We'll announce the results at the screening of The Matrix.

Which Oscar Snub Should We Honour with a Guelph Movie Club Showing?

Some other things you might want to know:

· We’re on Twitter
· And Facebook

It’s Guelph Movie Club’s third birthday! Come see a movie. Find out if we get that new bike we’ve been asking for.

Til then, see you at the movies.


Saturday, January 9, 2016


Dalton Trumbo was one of the heroes of the McCarthy dark ages when being a communist was enough to have you incarcerated. As one of The Hollywood Ten (and probably Hollywood’s most successful screenwriter) he refused to testify before The House of American Activities – or, in other words, he refused to snitch on any of his friends who may have had communist membership or even leanings. For this he was blacklisted until the 60’s, and in 1950 spent 11 months in a federal penitentiary.

There is a lot that I didn’t understand about that era even though at the time I immersed myself in my mother’s Screen Gem magazines. Trumbo is really worth seeing for a number of reasons, the least of which is an amazing performance by Helen Mirren playing Hedda Hopper, gossip columnist extraordinaire. And Brian Cranston is very believable and likable as Trumbo. He is portrayed as a person who puts his money where his mouth is. But the thing that really hit home for me was how easily the culture of fear, which is taking place presently in American politics, can be so quickly spread and how easily it can infect both the corridors of power and those of us outside that system. We’re bringing this movie back for a reason. Don’t miss it if you haven’t seen it.

- Barb