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Notes from the back row

Whistler Film Fest delivers

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There’s a veritable crapload of good flicks playing in theatres right now — The Darjeeling Limited , the latest from Wes Anderson ( Royal Tennenbaums) overflows with unique, dry humour, touching familial themes and fantastic acting and visual design. Plus it starts with Hotel Chevalier , a short film that rules, and not just because it features Natalie Portman totally naked. As well, the Coen Bros. step back into old form with No Country for Old Men , probably the best movie of the year, a perfect thriller meshing humour, great characters, insight, surprise and Javier Bardem redefining the concept of Bad MuthaFukka. Lars and the Real Girl , starring Canadian Ryan Gosling, is an ideal date movie — pretty chick-flickish but it’s about a dude who tows a blow-up sex doll around with him so it works. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is another knockout film, directed by Sidney Lumet ( Dog Day Afternoon) who is 83 and still making bang-up movies ­— this one’s a heist movie with a morality tale woven in, and it too, is one of the best of the year.

The bad news is, none of these fine films are showing at the Village 8. It’s because good movies don’t usually bring in big numbers and since the Village 8 is a small market theatre they need to bring in the big ticket shows to stay afloat. So you’re stuck with generic drivel like Enchanted or the newest video game movie — Hitman. If the Village 8 was packed every night they’d be able to bring in better movies so really, the power is in your hands.

Thankfully, there’s good news. It’s Whistler Film Festival Time. Back for it’s seventh year the WFF is really coming of age, featuring 37 feature films and 55 shorts. I haven’t seen any of them (that’s the rad thing about festivals, you get to see flicks way before they hit theatres or DVD) but from perusing the schedule and using my intuitive powers I’ve picked out a pack of doozies starting with the opening Gala.

The Gala goes down Thursday (today) at 8 p.m. at the conference centre. The main event looks good but you should go to support the local films, the 5 minute shorts produced for the Whistler Stories project — Binty features local hombre/potter/all-around-good-guy Vincent Massey. Extreme Seniors blows elderly stereotypes out of the water and Journey to the Rainbow is about Whistler co-founder and first lady Myrtle Philip. She was a hip, hip lady and it’s a great story.

The Whistler Stories film I’m most stoked about though, is Brian Hockenstein and Lenny Rubenovitch’s First To Go Up about the early days and struggles of snowboarding in Whistler, back when people thought it was a fad. This is gonna rule.

Another hot ticket is anything in the Late Night Series. It sounds like porn but actually these films, starting at 11:30 at the Village 8, are generally weird, twisted flicks (or to use the phrase the film industry falls on when they want to describe something they think is cool but lack the wit and vocabulary to do so, “edgy”).

They Wait is a creepy, skeletons-in-the-closet film that plays Friday night and Nobody is a noir-ish nightmare/time warp/mob assassin picture. Hell yeah! Nobody plays Saturday night.

As well Inside Time, a doc about Canadian bankrobber-turned-author-turned bankrobber-again Stephen Reid (his novel Jackrabbit Parole is fantastic), screens Friday at the Rainbow Theatre. Plus there’s a public chat with legend Atom Egoyan ( Exotica, and the best spelled name ever ) at the same time. Whistler Film Fest is stepping up and delivering great films, forums, and workshops in our times of need. Check it out.

AT VILLAGE 8: Nov. 30-Dec. 2: Whistler Film Festival (two screens). Nov. 30-Dec. 6: Enchanted; Hitman; The Mist; Fred Claus; August Rush; Beowulf; American Gangster; Bee Movie.

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