Whistler Film Festival Picks 

Pique offers five films for your viewing pleasure

click to flip through (4) Omerta
  • Omerta
     
 

Often, writers who craft festival "Must See!" lists present their selections with irrefutable authority. It's generally useful for readers who are attempting to navigate the endless stream of concerts/art/films with their limited time and budget.

But with dozens of interesting movies slated to run at the Whistler Film Festival this week, we here at the Pique are simply offering our suggestions for five films we think are worth seeing. We balanced star power, reviews, plot and buzz factor to provide you with a wide range that represents the best of what the festival has to offer.

It is not a definitive list, but rather a starting point to encourage you to take advantage of the impressive selection that ranges from indie comedy to animation, documentary and indie hits. And if you see any standout films during the festival be sure to let us — and fellow readers — know on our Facebook page (facebook.com/piquenewsmagazine) or on Twitter (@piquenews). Happy movie watching!

Omerta

What it's about: Adapted from a successful Quebec TV series that ran from 1996 to 1999, the big screen version of Omerta tells the story of a mob plot to smuggle fake gold from North American banks, using a restaurant as a front for their illicit dealings. Enter Sophie, a blonde, vivacious former secret agent who's hired to go undercover and investigate the mob, winning the affection of a mobster along the way.

Why you should see it: Quebec cinema has been one of that province's best-kept secrets for far too long. Canadian film buffs might be well aware of all the excellent French flicks coming out of La Belle Province, but mainstream audiences are missing out, big time. This film has already been deemed the second highest-grossing Canadian movie of the year, but its screening at WFF marks its English debut.

Who's in it: Get a taste of some of Quebec's big-name talent in this movie, which stars Michel Côte (C.R.A.Z.Y., the Omerta TV series) and Patrick Huard (Bon Cop, Bad Cop, Starbuck) along with Celine Dion's husband/manager, Rene Angelil, whose stern look seems tailor-made for the role of mob boss. Adding Hollywood cache, Rachelle Lefevre also acted in the Twilight series.

Fun fact: Before the action begins, the film informs audiences that the seemingly far-fetched scheme was actually attempted in the mid-90s, according to a review from Examiner.com. "As far as mob-movies go, Omerta stands on its own thanks to its original and complicated plot, but also thanks to the performances," the reviewer writes.

When/where: Dec. 1, 9:30 p.m. at Whistler Conference Centre Screen B

Love, Marilyn

What it's about: There's no shortage of films, books and stories on the lore of Marilyn Monroe. But in this documentary director Liz Garbus set out to put the star in context, as a real person, using newly uncovered documents, diaries and letters she acquired. Garbus rounded up an all-star cast of actresses to read the material in an attempt to paint an accurate portrait of the enduring sex symbol.

Why you should see it: In a review, The Hollywood Reporter calls Love, Marilyn "one of the year's most engaging documentaries" for the way it "morphs (Marilyn) back from an icon to human." In a four star review, the Globe and Mail also highlights the film's "unusual, highly effective" technique for telling its story. Even if you're not a Marilyn fan, the idea of pulling away the veil of celebrity sounds fascinating.

Who's in it: There are a ton of stars including Glenn Close, Uma Thurman, Lindsay Lohan, Marisa Tomei and Adrien Brody, to name just a few.

Fun fact: Through connections she made while shooting another documentary, Garbus learned that two virtually untouched boxes that belonged to Marilyn's estate had been unearthed. Pouring through the documents within, she discovered enough new insight to spark the documentary. "I think the exploitation of Marylin's image should be set in the context of a human being Marilyn and it shouldn't be seen simply as an accident that Marilyn is so famous," she said in a video interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "We should understand what she did to create that."

When/where: Dec. 1, 9:30 p.m. Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre

Anna Karenina

What's it about: If you don't know that the film is based on the Leo Tolstoy classic novel, it might be a sign that the public school system (or Oprah, who gave the book her club stamp of approval a few years ago) is failing us. Anna Karenina, who married her government official husband young and for reasons other than love, falls hard for Count Vronsky, despite her wedding vows and 8-year-old son. When the affair becomes public, she's forced to choose between fleeing and leaving her child behind, or ending the extramarital affair.

Why you should see it: The crew managed to make the stunning Jude Law look drab. Isn't that enough to pique your curiosity? Besides the fine make-up crew, director Joe Wright made the unusual decision to film the production almost entirely in a large, crumbling theatre. According to the L.A. Times, the effect is "both brilliant and baffling" with "action unfolding in odd nooks and crannies of the ancient structure, much of it on catwalks and along backstage corridors."  

Who's in it: Well, we already mentioned the magically transformed Jude Law. Keira Knightley, however, remains lovely as ever as Anna Karenina. Her love interest, meanwhile, is played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who most recently acted in the Oliver Stone drug film Savages.

Fun fact: According to the New York Times, Wright hired an experimental choreographer named Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui to choreograph the film, in which there are two waltzes and a mazurka. "I conceived it as a ballet with words," Wright told the Times. "I really love that part of my job that is blocking — the movement of actors in space, and their physical relationships, and how you express that through a camera."

When/where: Nov. 29, 9:30 p.m. at the Whistler Conference Centre Screen A

Home Again

What it's about: Upon first glance, this feature film looks like it could be a documentary. It's based on the real passing of legislation in Canada, the U.S. and U.K. that demands anyone who is born abroad (even permanent residents) to be sent back to their birth country if they're convicted of a crime—no matter how petty. The film follows three characters (two of whom committed small, naïve offenses) recently deported to their native Jamaica as they try to navigate a country they know virtually nothing about.

Why you should see it: Though it's not actually a documentary, the film is informed by extensive research. According to a story in the Toronto Star, director Sudz Sutherland and his wife Jennifer Holness, who produced and co-wrote the script, travelled to Jamaica to interview 40 deportees last summer. "It's like a death sentence," Sutherland told the Star.

Who's in it: Actress-singers rule this cast. Tatyana Ali, who starred as Ashley Banks in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air before launching an R&B career, plays Marva, a young mother sent back to Jamaica and attempting to reunite with her children. Canadian pop singer Fefe Dobson is also part of the cast.

Fun fact: Sutherland's resume is extremely diverse. He's also directed episodes of TV shows like Degrassi: The Next Generation and Da Kink in My Hair.

When/Where: Dec. 1, 6 p.m. and Dec. 2 at 1 p.m. Both screenings are the Whistler Conference Centre Screen A.

The Painting (Le Tableau)

What it's about: WFF's program director Paul Gratton described this French animation's charming plot with such enthusiasm we couldn't help but get excited about it too. Part of the GKIDS animation showcase, this film explores an artist's caste system with characters in various stages of completion. There's the "Allduns" or finished drawings, as royalty, the "Halfies" who are almost-completed pieces and the "Sketchies," or charcoal outlines, who are the lowest rung on the social ladder. When one of the Sketchies falls off the painting one day, they begin to search for an explanation to their existence.

Why you should see it: The rich, stunning colour palate, which strays far from the traditional florescence of cartoons, is reason enough. The trailer gives you a taste of this visual feast with swirls of earthy tones one minute and a world of pastels the next. Although, if the plot wasn't a tip off that this might be a little much for younger children, the topless woman painting that comes to life might be.

Who's in it: A star-studded Disney movie this is not. One of the co-producers, however, also helped produce silent movie revival The Artist.

Fun fact: The Painting was released last year in France, where it was nominated for that country's national Cesar Award for film.

When/Where: Dec. 1 at 4 p.m. Whistler Conference Centre Screen B

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