Spring forward

Predicting what non-blockbuster movies will make it into Halifax cinemas this season is more an unreliable art than a science.

In Son of Rambow, kids try to remake Rambo: First Blood.

On Friday, April 11 Smart People opens in Halifax. The buzz for the picture is pretty good, having premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s a comedy starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Dennis Quaid and Thomas Haden Church, about a woman taking care of a former professor, who has to then contend with his extended family. It’s from first-time feature director Noam Murro.

This is exactly the kind of film we don’t see too often in Halifax: quirky, hard-to-pigeonhole, having attracted rave reviews at a film festival elsewhere. So why exactly are we getting to see it in cinemas and not on DVD in six months?

It might have something to do with the sudden stellar profile of one of its supporting cast, a local talent named Ellen Page. Her stardom means other smaller films, such as Bruce MacDonald’s The Tracey Fragments, practically a non-narrative experimental film, showed up in cinemas. Her presence in a supporting role will probably help the adaptation of Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel get a theatrical run. And it might even help open An American Crime, a grim true story of suburban torture, starring Page and Catherine Keener.

But then, there are a lot of wonderful yet hard-to-define movies out there not starring Ellen Page that we won’t see in area cinemas. The reasons why are complex:economics, geography, the vagaries ofcinema distribution.

There’s the strange case of Margot At The Wedding, the dysfunctional family snapshot written and directed by Noah Baumbach and starring Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jack Black. Even though there were signs it was going to open in December, it did not.

And there are other interesting movies that never came here: Paul Basic Instinct Verhoven’s controversial Black Book (on Mark Palermo’s list of the best 2007 movies), the beautiful yet unnerving bestiality doc Zoo, the solemn western Seraphim Falls starring Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan or Richard Kelly’s follow-up to Donnie Darko, the sci-fi epic Southland Tales. All are now out on DVD.

Though low-budget horror products are regularly packing them in at the cinema, when godfather of the genre George Romero added to his catalogue with the Toronto-shot Diary of the Dead, it never appeared here.

Perhaps most disappointing, a stellar entry in the 2007 Atlantic Film Festival, Starting Out in the Evening, will be released only on DVD on April 22. It’s a beautifully observed story about the relationship between an elderly New York writer and a young grad student, starring Frank Langella and Six Feet Under veterans Lili Taylor and Lauren Ambrose.

But, it’s not all dire. There’s always the festival in September. Plus, AFCOOP’s Monday Night Movie program screened Inland Empire, Redacted, Everything’s Gone Green and 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days in the past season, all of which are unusual, interesting films that didn’t get distribution here. And credit to Empire Theatres, they managed to bring in almost every nominee for Best Foreign Language film from the 2007 Academy Awards during the past 18 months: Water, Pan’s Labyrinth, Days of Glory and the winner, The Lives of Others, all high-quality films. (The only one that didn’t makeit was the great Danish melodrama, After The Wedding.)

We’ve also recently seen in cinemas the award-winning Persepolis and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

This year’s foreign language category winner The Counterfeiters, was replaced this week at the Oxford by TIFF fave Bella. Others to look out for are the Israeli war drama Beaufort, Katyn, from Poland, the Genghis Khan bio Mongol and the Chechen courtroom drama 12.

In the year ahead, there are plenty of other independent films that would be great to see in cinemas. David Gordon Green’s Snow Angels, shot here in Halifax. Gus Van Sant’s new teen skateboarder drama Paranoid Park is another, as is what might be Harmony Korine’s most mainstream effort, Mr. Lonely. How about David Mamet’s martial arts drama Redbelt? Or Son of Rambow, the British coming-of-age picture about kids who remake Rambo: First Blood?

Let’s cross our fingers.

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