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The perfect 10 

Out of more than 200 movies in the film fest, here are our picks for the flicks not to miss

The Stone AngelProud, cantankerous, selfish Hagar Shipley, the protagonist in Margaret Laurence's classic novel The Stone Angel, has haunted Can-lit classes for decades. And rightfully so—as a character, she's enormously captivating, and enormously flawed and human. God-like acting powerhouse Ellen Burstyn (who's stolen scenes in everything from The Last Picture Show to Requiem for a Dream) is playing Hagar in this big-screen treatment of the book; in other words, get ready to start your own branch of the Ellen Burstyn fan club. I'll join too, I promise. Dylan Baker (Happiness), Sheila McCarthy (I've Heard the Mermaid Singing) and over-worked Haligonian Ellen Page (Hard Candy, The Tracey Fragments) also star. (September 14, 9:30pm, Oxford, $15)

PaprikaIn the trailer for anime Paprika, businessmen freefall through the air, one scene shatters to become another, and a man's head explodes, turning into a big cloud of blue butterflies. The images are dazzling and beg to be seen on the big screen. The film's plot loosely revolves around a therapist who has a machine that allows her to enter her patients' dreams, and the theft of said machine. Director Satoshi Kon's movies (including Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress) tend to be plot-twisty head-scratchers—so what better time to catch one of his flicks than at a late-night screening? Paprika is being shown with Polish short Agnieszka 2039. (September 14, 11:30pm, Park Lane, $10)

everything will be okDon Hertzfeldt's hilarious, non-sequitur-filled series of animated shorts, Rejected, has made him a university campus (and YouTube) legend. Seriously—tell a bunch of hipsters that your spoon is too big, and you'll have friends for life. Hertzfeldt's newest offering, everything will be ok, appears to be a bit more sober-minded; the film tells the story of a guy named Bill's experience with depression. The movie won the Jury Prize in short filmmaking at this year's Sundance. Here, it's being presented alongside excellent-sounding animated shorts from all over the world. (Frame X Frame II, September 15, 9:25pm, Park Lane, $10)

WatermelonThis year's screening of homegrown short films includes the tale of a nosy Jewish mother (Cayman Grant's Soup Ladle), a comedy about a Vietnam war vet (Forgotten, from Andrew Bush, of stellar Halifax comedy troupe Picnicface), and the stirring conclusion to Jacob Owens's Copain trilogy, which follows the joys and sorrows of a hamster. The gala screening will also feature Clark Biesele's short, Watermelon. The four-word teaser for the film offers the following concise and tantalizing description: "Two words. Exploding watermelon." Well, I'm sold. (Atlantic Shorts Gala, September 18, 7pm, Oxford, $15)

The Bodybuilder and IAt age 59, mansion-owning Toronto lawyer and derelict dad Bill Friedman got depressed, quit his job, and started working out. Eventually, he built up enough muscle to qualify as a competitive bodybuilder. The Bodybuilder and I, made in Canada, is about him; the doc's directed by filmmaker Bryan Friedman, Bill's estranged son, so it's also about the pair's awkward attempts to reconcile and understand each other. The film sounds like a spiritual brother to similar (and satisfying!) father-son docs like Tell Them Who You Are, and My Architect. It also sounds good. (September 18, Park Lane, 9:20pm, $10)

Starting Out in the EveningIn Starting Out in the Evening, Frank Langella (Good Night, and Good Luck) plays Leonard, an out-of-print novelist who's been working for years on the same book. His secluded life's invaded by Heather (Lauren Ambrose, Six Feet Under), a grad student completing a thesis on Leonard's work. Awesome Lili Taylor (I Shot Andy Warhol) also appears, as Leonard's daughter. Presumably, lots of character-driven drama and tension and great acting ensues. Yay! The film was nominated for the Grand Jury prize at Sundance; plus, any film with a plot description that vaguely brings to mind the lovely Wonder Boys is probably a keeper. (September 18, 9:30pm, Park Lane, $10)

Strictly BackgroundThink of a crowd scene from any film you've watched. A classroom scene. A battle scene. Milling behind the movie's stars, you'll find a slew of background actors. They flank Ferris Bueller as he sings his heart out in a New York street and they carouse in the corners of the screen each time a movie character heads to a bar. Documentary Strictly Background tells the story of these extras and their brushes with fame, their aspirations, and their startling filmographies. Check it out if you like looking at things from a new perspective. Or, if you've ever toiled in the trenches while you were working towards a dream. (September 19, 7:15pm, Park Lane, $10)

ControlRock photographer Anton Corbijn has been making music videos for almost 25 years, but Control is his debut feature. A biopic of Ian Curtis, the Joy Division singer who killed himself at 23, with the wonderful Samantha Morton as Curtis's wife and a great (obviously) soundtrack, it's earning raves on the festival circuit. But that's hardly a surprise. Even in his still photography, Corbijn displays a cinematic command of narrative and character. There's a menacing Bono, glasses off, ready to pop you for looking at him. Scrawny Kurt Cobain, flexing with bravado but revealing his wounded back, covered in fresh scratches. Kylie Minogue alone in a house, on the phone, perhaps to the police? an accomplice? the box office for tickets? (September 21, 9pm, Oxford, $16)

HelveticaAppropriately-titled British doc Helvetica seems to have been made for anyone who's ever debated the pros and cons of serif and sans serif typefaces, or particularly admired the way the letters in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer logo capture the show's gothic tone. In other words, it's for word dorks who ate up docs like Wordplay, Word Wars and Spellbound with a spoon. (Shout out to my peeps!) But the festival program blurb about the film also points out how many fonts surround us daily, and the effect type and graphic design have on our lives. So, this flick could be for you, too. (September 21, 7:10pm, Park Lane, $10)

The Tracey FragmentsThe Tracey Fragments is undoubtedly a very weird movie. The film's about Tracey (Ellen Page), a teenager in the throes of puberty; Tracey's younger brother thinks he's a dog. Director Bruce McDonald apparently "splits screens, and bends, folds and mutilates time" to illustrate hormonal Tracey's thought processes to the audience. Of course, weird movies, when properly executed, are sometimes also the best movies. And we're inclined to give any movie that teams up Canadian indie-directing icon McDonald (Highway 61, Hardcore Logo, Twitch City) and homegrown, kick-ass, acting-machine (and Haligonian. Did we mention Haligonian?) Page the benefit of the doubt. Now, wow us, Brucey. (September 21, 9:30pm Oxford, $15)

For tickets to any of these screenings: 422-6965,

By day (and often night) Lindsay McCarney works as a clerk at a local video emporium. She gets to have a "staff picks" wall there, which means she can die happy now.

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