The Cannes Film Festival kicked off this week in the sunny south of France. Last year, I had the opportunity to partake in cinema's most celebrated festival of light (and hobnobbed) with Sea to Sky director Darcy Turenne. We watched some excellent movies, attended some pretty swanky Hollywood parties (everyone smokes inside though — gross), and received the best filmmaking advice of my life from a sweat-stained distribution dude who seemed more interested in nailing starlets than acquiring films: ("I judge a movie by its poster — if you can't make an engaging poster you probably can't make an engaging film either.")
In any case, Whistler is well represented again this year by born-and-raised local Peter Harvey, who is in Cannes for the Director's Fortnight selection with a film called Mobile Homes. Pete is a producer living in Toronto these days but his roots are here in the valley, and his first "real" film was funded by one of the "Whistler Stories" grants the Whistler Film Fest was handing out leading into the 2010 Olympics.
Pete's a true local success story and living proof of the kind of fearless, can-do attitude so common in this area and particularly with the kids who grow up here. Raise a glass to Pete this week and watch for him on the Hollywood gossip blogs. I never even got close to Katy Perry's yacht when I was strolling La Croisette, but Pete has a solid flick in his corner so here's hoping...
In other Cannes news, for the first time ever Netflix is premiering some of its original films at the festival. The big one is Okja, an adventure story about a young girl fighting an multinational corporation to protect her best friend, some kind of giant pig-like animal. Directed by internationally acclaimed Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, The Host) this one looks intriguing but it's also at the centre of some heated industry controversy.
The Cannes Film Festival is notoriously not down with Netflix-style on-demand, watch-from-your home movie releases as told in the press in the past week. The French are vraiment pure champions of the cinema (they invented it) so Cannes organizers are actually changing the rules next year — films must be released in French theatres to qualify for the festival competition (essentially telling Netflix to go suck an oeuf). Everyone is watching this issue closely because Netflix makes a crapload of money and more and more people would rather watch movies on their own big screen, from the comfort of their own couch, and munch affordable (healthier) snacks while hitting their own director Joon-ho's first name.
Who can blame them? The times are changing and the Cannes crew will likely have to rescind their mandate down the road or miss out on some quality films (especially documentaries) but for now, let's cherish the warmth of watching a film in a packed theatre while we can.
Speaking of, Alien: Covenant opens this week at the always-awesome Whistler Village 8. This franchise set the standard for horror/Sci Fi back in 1979 and the good news is original director Ridley Scott is back at the helm for this sixth instalment.
Covenant takes place about a decade after the unfortunate events of 2012's Prometheus. In this sequel a crew of human colonizers heading for deep space get sidetracked following a signal and run right into the mayhem left over from the events of Prometheus. The always-amazing Michael Fassbender steals the show as the android David, but Ridley Scott's filmmaking talent is on full display, as well.
The first half is dripping with open, creepy atmosphere and once the aliens show up things get real bloody, real fast (including a shower scene!). There's definitely some recycling in this one but it supplements all that brooding mood of the set-up with some good balls-out horror, and a decent existentialist ending. What if there's something worse than the worst we can imagine?
Speaking of, Diary of Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul also opens this week. From the trailer it looks like a super shitty take on National Lampoon's Family Vacation. Of course, none of the Wimpy Kid flicks have ever really won over the critics, and yet they keep making more, so you can bet the kids will flock to this one, too. The trailer does have an adult Alicia Silverstone (Clueless), but seems to lack my favourite fictional high school metal band — Löded Diper. And the kid is a wimp.
Also, it's not playing at Cannes.