Apr 14, 2020
What have the Cinematheque staff been watching while in isolation? Quite a bit! Here are a few of our suggestions on what to watch.
If you would like to continue to support us during this time, please check out what’s playing in our new Cinematheque at Home on demand service, there are several other ways you can do so such as making a donation, renewing your membership or purchasing other WFG merch.
Ryan Steel, Cinematheque Box Office & Projection:
Quarantine has been all Twin Peaks all the time for me. I’m almost done watching the entire show for the second time. Also thrilled that Matthew Rankin’s The Twentieth Century has made its way to VOD. I watched it an embarrassing amount of times at Cinematheque and now enjoy more repeat viewing at home. Miss you all.
Stephanie Poruchnyk-Butler, Winnipeg Film Group Distribution Coordinator & former Cinematheque staff:
My bedroom has been converted into a venue of my own, home to a film festival where I am the only attendee. Every two-hour window is an opportunity to make my way through my watchlist, while chowing down on warm brownies, kimchi pancakes or veggie lasagna. I began my journey with the giggle-inducing, Dick, a teen comedy about the Watergate scandal, followed by Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot and Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock. I re-watched some comfort films, including my teenage fave, Ghost World, and serotonin-boosting The Muppet Movie. I finally got to see Leilah Weinraub’s documentary, Shakedown, which I missed at Cinematheque last year. Nothing takes the cake like Jacques Demy’s 1967 musical Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, which had me wishing for sunny days, floppy hats and a ballet barre in my living room.
The Cinematheque Box Office and Projection family (AKA Popcorn Squad) have taken to watching films together virtually—and messaging the whole way through! My favourite pick being: The Princess Bride; a movie I was terrified of as a child due to the rodents of unusual size, but adore now. It feels good to chat about films the way we would in person. We’re alone together, after all!
David Knipe, Cinematheque Manager of Operations & Special Programming:
Cinematheque and independent cinema mean so much to me that to not be able to have them in the traditional sense, is causing me great sorrow. Luckily, I have no shortage of great film to commune with during this scary and uncertain time. I’ve been mounting the effort of catching up with a lot of my VHS purchases over the past year: Beyond Dream’s Door, Crystal Force, The Pit and The Willies were some standouts. While we may be missing out on the next scheduled Cream of the Crap party, I can still get my fill of treasured trash at home.
With research and preparations for this year’s edition of the Gimli Film Festival (July 22-26) well underway, I’ve had a steady diet of contemporary world film to help satiate my appetite for the last couple months. While I can’t name many standouts here for reasons of film programmer’s Vow of Secrecy, I will let slip that The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, White Lie and Raf were a few outstanding Canadian films I caught up with after missing them at TIFF last year.
I am ecstatic to tell you that our first Cinematheque at Home feature films (available to stream beginning today), are both superb films to launch this much-needed new virtual cinema service. The Grey Fox, restored in a brilliant new 4K restoration, is a real Canadian classic: simple, yet grand and majestic, and featuring a sympathetic performance from Richard Farnsworth. Bacurau, which I had the pleasure of seeing at TIFF, is a bold, urgent, genre mashup with so much style to spare, and a timely political rallying cry.
Admittedly, I have also been spending a lot of self-isolation time watching bad reality TV, Below Deck being one of my current obsessions. But who could possibly resist the jaw-slackening what-in-the-actual-f**k high of Tiger King?!
Dave Barber, Senior Cinematheque Programmer:
Stuck inside like the rest of us I have been glued to the news, reading every conceivable article about COVID-19 and posting Instagram missives demonstrating the amazing musical instrument – a pseudo Casio Yamaha portable organ (Sam Sarty and Jaimz Asmundson watch out!) and posting nutritional advice on the five food groups. Faced with the crisis, like every organization, arts group and business in the city, the Cinematheque braintrust – spearheaded by Jaimz Asmundson – assembled Cinematheque at Home: a bold gamble to re-invent movie-going until we can back to our much beloved palace of cinema.
There’s a terrific short film by Phil Borsos playing with The Grey Fox called Nails that is so good it got an Oscar nomination. It’s a textbook case of what you can do with a short documentary if you treat the subject with skill and care.
I have been digging through my collection of DVDs and tapes to search out cinematic treasures. I recently re-watched Phil Kaufman’s 1983 space epic The Right Stuff, a film which looks even better now with stellar performances all around; David Lean’s Brief Encounter; Don Siegel’s Charley Varrick– one of my favourite heist films; George Romero’s Dawn of The Dead;, and Susan Seidelman’s great film Smithereens, about a Jersey girl trying to break into the Manhattan music scene. She went on to make Desperately Seeking Susan, amongst many other gems. I have hunkered down to make some food and now have enough in my fridge and freezer for three weeks and no, it is not all carrot soup!
Jaimz Asmundson, Cinematheque Programming Director:
I had to revisit my watch diary on letterboxd because I’ve watched so much over the last month that it was hard to remember!
One of the last films I saw in a theatre, and the cause for my own two-week quarantine, was when David and I drove down to Minneapolis the weekend before we found ourselves in the present moment (and the border shut down) for a VHS swap meet and a secret SOV (shot-on-video) screening at the Alamo Drafthouse. I got many prized black slabs of VHS that day and to my delight, the secret screening was none other than the Canadian bastard-spawn of The Evil Dead, Andrew Jordan’s Things! I relished in every minute of seeing this incomprehensible fever-dream in a theatre.
I also finally got around to showing one of my all time faves, Paul Bartel’s Eating Raoul to my wife, and isolation buddy, Karen. I love the comfortability and matter-of-fact way that the relationship between Paul and Mary, a traditional down-home couple, who have to navigate the swinging-80s, is written as they attempt to raise enough money for their country kitchen, one crushed skull at a time. Goofy-plot aside, it’s refreshing to see such a sweet (and real) friendship such as theirs that spills through the screen.
Some other highlights for me were Kimberly Casey’s action-revenge-thriller Born Killer (from the kings of action, David and Ted Prior); a cozy rewatch of a couple of my faves – Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell, Walter Hill’s satanic-blues odyssey Crossroads, Dan O’Bannon’s Lovecraft adaptation The Resurrected; and I’ve been catching up on my cache of post-apocalyptic wasteland films with first viewings of Mad Max, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and the surprisingly entertaining World Gone Wild starring a very chill, magic mushroom eating magician / survivalist leader played by Bruce Dern battling against the sociopathic cult-leader played by Adam Ant over a puddle of water. The one thing I’ve probably watched the most is my Shape Up With Arnold VHS tape that I bought as a joke, but has been surprisingly useful in trying to keep a solid exercise regimen while in isolation! It’s like having a virtual Arnie as my gym buddy while I pump iron from my home office. We also just watched the blood-soaked political thrill-ride Bacurau, featured on our new Cinematheque at Home service. Can we all agree that Lunga is one of the best cinematic characters ever created? Wow! I’d rather not say anything else about this film and just highly recommend that you watch it immediately.
Anyways, I’m completely overjoyed that we are able to continue to bring you our love of cinema in a digital way with Cinematheque at Home as we all continue to navigate this pandemic. Thank you so much for continuing to support us during this time, my heart is full with all of the loving messages and donations that we have received.
Monica Lowe, Deputy Director:
Like many people, I assume, I dabble in several sources for my entertainment. These include Netflix, MUBI, my sister’s Amazon Prime account, VUCAVU, and HBO. I also have a TV with actual paid cable! Is that considered old-school?
Anyways, I am watching a bunch of things but I just started Run on HBO. One episode in and I’m hooked! It’s a 30 minute show with a new episode released every Sunday. So I can’t binge it. I have to be patient. Maybe some would say this is old-school. I appreciate it.
The show’s tagline is “Two ex-lovers activate a long-planned escape to disappear together.“ So good, right?! It combines my love of smart romance with a light dose of action and mystery. And it features two splendid actors, Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson. And bonus – it’s written and directed by women! So that’s one example of what I’m watching. There’s so much good stuff to choose from!
Greg Klymkiw, Executive Director:
Other than watching endless reruns of Judge Judy and Pawn Stars, TCM has been my go-to source for isolation movie-viewing. A few titles I watched recently include: Joseph Sargent’s electrifying and darkly funny 1973 subway hijacking thriller The Taking of Pelham One Two Three; Peter Bogdanovich’s first feature Targets, the powerful and prescient 1968 look into the diseased mind of a baby-faced mass-murderer and his eventual confrontation with an aging horror star played by the legendary Boris Karloff; The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, a haunting and wildly romantic 1947 fantasy from Joseph L. Mankiewicz; The Window, cinematographer Ted Tetzlaff’s dazzling 1949 directorial outing in which a little boy, who cries wolf once too often, and is disbelieved when he witnesses a brutal murder and is relentlessly pursued by the vicious killer; Blossoms in the Dust, Mervyn Leroy’s deeply moving 1941 drama in which Greer Garson plays the real-life Eva Gladney, a woman who fought tirelessly to remove illegitimacy from the permanent birth records of American orphans; Alice Guy Blache’s visually innovative and groundbreaking 1905 The Birth, the Life and the Death of Christ which is one of the only New Testament-inspired films to place considerable emphasis upon female characters; Rene Clair’s delightful 1942 fantasy romance I Married a Witch wherein the incomparable Veronica Lake makes life miserable for a descendant of the family that burned her at the stake some 250 years before, but with results she herself would never have predicted and last, but not least; another great movie from the Golden Age of Cinema, John Ford’s 1956 western masterpiece about revenge and racism, The Searchers.