Every thirty days, I like to post a list of my favorite films I’ve recently watched. Here are the best films I’ve seen throughout the month of September. This list is based on movies theatrically released here in Canada, and I do not include what I have seen at film festivals.
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1: Cabin In The Woods
Directed by Drew Goddard
Screenplay by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard
The clever high-concept Cabin In The Woods is without a doubt the best and most inventive cabin-in-the-woods picture since Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2. It is also the most clever genre deconstruction since Wes Craven’s Scream. Screenwriters Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon tease us with a simple set-up, only to turn the joke upside down and on its head. Crammed with small unanticipated and unexpected incidents and comical twists, director Drew Goddard defies conventions while demonstrating a strong understanding of modern horror. This over the top blend of Scream and The Adjustment Bureau puts a clever spin on Whedon’s longstanding obsession with violence and voyeurism. With two interwoven narratives taking place at once, Goddard’s multi-layered approach is ambitious – digging deeper than a self-reflexive game of name-checking. A horror film embedded in a conspiracy flick embedded within another horror movie; Cabin is a must see, if only for the final 20 minutes in which all Hell breaks loose.
2: Monsieur Lazhar
Directed by Philippe Falardeau
Screenplay by Philippe Falardeau
Filmmaker Philippe Falardeau’s adaptation of Évelyne de la Chenelière’s stage play technically had a release here in Montreal in 2011, but only recently found its way to theatres across North America. This tender, touching, quiet drama artfully captures the pulse of both primary school politics and Canadian immigration while packing one hell of an emotional punch along the way. Unlike such films as Dangerous Minds and The Class, Lazhar isn’t just another story of a radical teacher struggling with troubled students but rather a subtle topical work of art that weaves issues of parental authority, social taboos, immigration, integration, education, responsibility and national boundaries. More importantly, director Philippe Falardeau never imposes a moral high ground or an arid message; instead he offers a fine character study with well defined relationships, moments of unexpected levity and transient gestures – that add weight and complexity to what is otherwise a simple story.
3- Rebelle (War Witch)
Directed by Kim Nguyen
Screenplay by Kim Nguyen
Somewhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, Komona, a 14-year-old girl, tells her unborn child growing inside her the story of her life since she has been at war. That basically sums up Kim Nguyen’s Rebelle, one of the frontrunners for this year’s coveted Berlinale Golden Bear award and winner of the jury prize for best narrative feature at Tribeca. This harrowing film excels with disciplined direction, lively music, striking imagery, moments of levity and powerful performances by a predominately young, semi-professional cast – all of whom completely encase their characters by adding a much-needed dose of humanity. Rebelle continues the ongoing tradition of groundbreaking Quebecois cinema.