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Mark Barber

Reviews

Best of Enemies

By: Mark Barber In 1968, an ailing ABC network hired progressive author Gore Vidal and conservative intellectual William F. Buckley to shed some light on the 1968 Democratic and Republican Party Conventions.  This dialectical meeting of minds changed the way politics is mediated through television.  It overemphasized opinion and discussion, bringing about the birth of punditry. Best of Enemies tells the riveting story behind this “political odd couple.”  Despite their toxically unamicable relationship, Buckley and…

Reviews

Mr. Holmes

By: Mark Barber Current representations of Sherlock Holmes are filled with weighty world-threatening stakes and explosive action sequences.  Bill Condon’s more peaceful and contemplative Mr. Holmes seeks to rectify that inclination, offering a more poignant take on the famous deerstalker-wearing detective. Indeed, Sherlock’s trademark cap never appears in the film, and for good reason.  Mr. Holmes is about the interplay between fact and fiction, spending much of its running time reconciling the elderly Holmes’ (Ian…

Movie Lists

Wylie Writes’ 2015 Mid-Year Report

Addison Wylie We’re halfway through the year, and I’m confident movies are “back on track”.  2014 had some admirable features, but it seemed like everyone collectively decided to focus on technical achievements.  As far as award darlings are concerned, our minds have yet to be blown by this year’s selections.  However, 2015 has given movie goers wonderful experiences. Killers made me feel queasy, but in a good way.  Its story about two serial murderers was…

Reviews

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

By: Mark Barber Swedish auteur Roy Andersson completes his so-called “living trilogy” with the sombre, contemplative A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, a masterful blend of dour themes and dark humour. Andersson’s Pigeon resists a coherent synopsis.  The film is told through multiple intertwining stories.  At the centre of these stories is a pair of travelling novelty salespeople–Jonathan (Holger Andersson) and Sam (Nils Westblom), both of whom share the same reflective deadpan…

Reviews

Dark Star: HR Giger’s World

By: Mark Barber Swiss surrealist H. R. Giger was something of a phantom, often disappearing into one of the many nooks and crannies of his own home.  Yet, what makes Giger so unique and compelling–both as an artist and as a person–is another elusive phantom in Belinda Sallin’s Dark Star: HR Giger’s World. Dark Star disappoints not in its reasonably zealous adoration of Giger’s cyborg nightmares, but in its simplistic analytical approach to both himself and…

Reviews

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

By: Mark Barber Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney’s latest film is an insightful–if perhaps overlong–two-hour reminder of the controversial Church of Scientology.  Based on and working extensively off of Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, Gibney traces Scientology’s history from its very beginnings with its erratic and odd founder L. Ron Hubbard to the assimilation of Hollywood celebrities into the cult. Perhaps most distressingly, however, is Gibney’s chosen slate…

Reviews

The Dead Lands

By: Mark Barber The Dead Lands is a rare pre-colonial narrative.  Rarely does a film provide a cinematic lens through which we may see a pre-westernized, pre-colonial native culture.  Given such emancipating opportunities, it’s curious that director Toa Fraser would make such a comfortable film for western audiences. Featuring an all-Maori (people indigenous to New Zealand) cast, young Hongi (James Rolleston) seeks revenge on a rival tribe that eradicated his people.  To do so, he…

Reviews

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

By: Mark Barber The Oscar-nominated doc Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me follows the title legendary country singer through both his final tour and his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.  Necessarily poignant (if artificial) and urgent about the subject and his inevitably fatal illness, the film still occasionally struggles with the presence of exploitation. Numerous interviews with family, friends, and celebrities set up a touching rumination on the ineluctable flow of time.  But the oft-witty Campbell serves…

Reviews

Tracers

By: Mark Barber Tracers is aimlessly plotted, driven only by a cynical, desperate need to financially exploit the parkour craze and Twilight star Taylor Lautner’s now-dwindling popularity. The film’s overall premise and execution recalls Lautner’s previous action outing, 2011’s Abduction.  Although Tracers takes itself slightly more seriously, both films have a proclivity for deception.  Similar to how Abduction featured no actual kidnappings, Tracers is barely about parkour; it gracelessly vacillates between a modern-day re-visioning of…

Reviews

Loitering with Intent

By: Mark Barber Loitering with Intent has all the right ingredients for a compelling short film.  Unfortunately, it has been unnecessarily bloated into an 80-minute feature. Raphael (Ivan Martin) and Dominic (Michael Godere) are two struggling actor-writers who are commissioned to write the screenplay for a low-budget Chandleresque noir film.  The screenplay subplot is quickly dropped once the two are settled in their writing retreat: the cottage they occupy suddenly becomes a festering nightmare of…