Jingle Bell Rocks
A fun and disarmingly poignant and personal look at people who collect and create offbeat and unheralded holiday jingles, Mitchell Kezin’s Jingle Bell Rocks captures a lot of holiday spirit in documentary form while still being informative, balanced, entertaining, and never overbearingly sentimental. It’s the perfect way for realists and music buffs to get into the holiday spirit.
Sparked since childhood to seek out Christmas music every year, Kezin unabashedly paints himself as a fan of a very specific kind of music that many people cringe when they hear it encroaching on the airwaves of radio stations on or about the day after American Thanksgiving. But Kezin’s out to prove that there’s a world of great Christmas music that never gets played very much and is decidedly outside the mainstream. From obscure covers of old standards set to Caribbean beats to modern day pop and indie rocks acts brings a new amount of sincerity to a genre that for too long was flooded by heartless cash-ins, Kezin talks to those who have or continue to make heartfelt, thoughtful, sometimes very silly holiday anthems.
Kezin understands that his subject and the season are a time for nostalgia and good feelings, and he never adds unrealistic drama or heavy handedness, which makes his own reasons for liking Christmas music humane and universally relatable almost from the first scenes. Talks with a plethora of musicians and industry types (most notably former Def Jam A&R man Bill Adler, RUN DMC member Joseph Simmons, and jazz pioneer Bob Dorough) add a lot of necessary context to paint a picture of those who want to use holiday music to make a difference. A sidebar discussing how acts like The Free Design were able to use Christmas music as subversive political statements also adds depth to the genre itself. It’s a very smart movie about sometimes silly music. (Andrew Parker)
Mitchell Kezin will be in attendance for Q&As following all screenings of the film this week.
The Italian Character: The Story of a Great Italian Orchestra
Aimed squarely at classical music buffs who can forgive repetitive filmmaking techniques and a lack of focus in exchange for a behind the curtain look at one of the greatest orchestras in the world, The Italian Character is too disjointed and “inside baseball” to really have much appeal beyond the core demographic it’s aimed at.
Italy’s Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia is generally regarded as one of the best musical outfits in the world of any kind. Under the direction of British conductor Sir Antonio Pappano, even their rehearsals look like full on concerts. Director Angelo Bozzolini looks at the inner workings of the orchestra, why they are seen as some of the most emotional classical musicians in the world, and the unit’s focus on team building and highlighting each other’s strengths.
It starts off quite compelling, but no less than 14 minutes in does Bozzolini’s film decide to change directions at the drop of a hat. It becomes confused and lacking in focus, often bouncing between some insightful looks into the personal lives of the people who make the orchestra what it is and uncomfortably looking at the ensembles place in a larger scope of the music scene around the world. It has moments, but at an overlong 100, more often its repetitive in terms of how laudatory it is towards the group. We should be able to understand how great they are just by hearing them and listening to why they like the music. We don’t need to be told every ten minutes how awesome and hard working they are for lengthy periods of time. (Andrew Parker)
Director Angelo Bozzolini will conduct Skype Q&As following the 3:45pm show on Friday, December 6th and the 9:30pm show on Monday, December 9th.
The Internet has been a major part of society since the early ‘90s, but while its effects on society across the globe are obvious, the effects on the psychology of younger generations are hardly clear. Beeban Kidron’s documentary, InRealLife, sets out to explore the social and psychological impact of the Internet on the youth of today and what to expect heading into the future.
It’s a handsomely made and crafted film to be sure, but right from the start it plays falsely. The music and imagery that opens the film screams “eerie portent,” and the majority of the film focuses on the Internet’s impact as negative, extending to almost all of its talking heads. A healthy skepticism and realistic analysis are important with such a serious subject, but the film overplays its hand, unfortunately feeling quite unfair.
The film features very candid interviews with some young people about pornography, gaming addiction and online dating, and while they’re honest in tone, only the online dating interview offers glimmers of hope. The other two feel purposely selected to give online socialization as bad an image as possible.
The last problem is one of what the intended audience of this is. Time that could’ve been spent giving a more nuanced view of the Internet’s social and psychological effects is instead wasted on trying to explain the frailty of the physical network systems that comprise the Internet. It’s not clear why this is all here, but it means the film comes across as purely intended to strike fear into the hearts of adults and parents, rather than informing them. (Corey Atad)
Also at The Bloor this week:
On Sunday, December 8th at 3:30, SyriaDocs (presented by the Syrian Expatriates Organization) will screen a trio of documentaries about the Syrian revolution. Tickets are $10.
The by-donation Cinema Politica series continues this week on Tuesday, December 10th at 6:15pm with a screening of INSURGENCE, a sprawling look at the student upsisings in Quebec in 2012. Guests will be on hand to discuss the film and the issues following the screening.
On Wednesday, December 11th at 6:00pm, the students of Humber College will take to the stage and screen of The Bloor to showcase their first documentary works and discuss their experiences. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door for $5.
Thursday, December 12th brings the premiere of DAY JOB at 7:00pm. A locally made effort, the film takes a look at three entrepreneurs and their struggles starting up businesses on their own.
Before we go, though, it should also be noted that today tickets go “on sale” for The Bloor’s four film Christmas extravaganza on December 23rd (with screenings of White Christmas, A Christmas Story, Home Alone, and Die Hard all back to back starting at 1pm). Admission is technically free (limit two tickets per person), and you can pick up tickets starting at 4pm on Friday at The Bloor box office. Donations (both monetary and healthy non-perishable foods) will be accepted to benefit The Stop Community Food Centre. There will also be a limited number of tickets available at the door on the 23rd.