Cashback

Not rated yet!
Director
Sean Ellis
Runtime
1 h 42 min
Release Date
10 September 2006
Genres
Drama, Comedy, Romance
Overview
After a painful breakup, Ben develops insomnia. To kill time, he starts working the late night shift at the local supermarket, where his artistic imagination runs wild.
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  • Toronto — Day 4 — capsules

    Toronto — Day 4 — capsules

    BORN AND BRED (Pablo Trapero, Argentina, 4)

    My reaction to this movie is, rationally speaking, impossible. BORN AND BRED is a 100-minute movie. For the first 98 minutes of it, I was completely uninterested in it. Oh, I didn’t hate it — BORN AND BRED is professionally made, professionally acted, technically competent, not morally repulsive or otherwise objectionable per se. I was just utterly indifferent. The early part of the film plays like a Haneke depiction of a well-off Buenos Aires bourgeois couple with their perfect child — only as shot by a TV-movie crew and a network dramedy writing team. I knew that something would happen to burst this perfect (and perfectly inert) bubble. Sure enough it does, and once I realized what had happened next and that the movie on my mind should have been BLUE, I knew where BORN AND BRED would go. And one (very well-telegraphed) difference from the Kieslowski aside, that’s exactly what happened. Fitfully. And with little of interest happening through the slog, though someone with more interest in landscapes and scenery than me might enjoy the vistas of either southern Patagonia or Tierra del Fuego. But then the last scene happened (and it’s not a scene that’s unexpected or otherwise recodes the first 98 minutes), and I felt a lump in the throat. I was actually kinda moved by the reunion, though I should not have been. Not moved enough to recommend BORN AND BRED or to be interested in seeing it again to see if I missed something. But there it is. I report; you decide.

    OFFSIDE (Jafar Panahi, Iran, 8 )

    Mike D’Angelo once dismissed an Iranian movie, saying (close as I recall) “why do the women in this set-in-Iran movie act as if they don’t know that the status of women in Iran is shit.” If Mike wasn’t referring to Panahi’s THE CIRCLE, he should (also) have been, and that’s what makes OFFSIDE such a step forward over that piece of feminist hand-wringing masquerading as a movie. These Iranian women know their status, and the basic plot premise is about their efforts to get around it and do something particular that men take for granted, in this case (though obviously it stands for more than itself) by getting into Tehran’s national soccer stadium for a World Cup qualifying game against Bahrain. (One word of advice for soccer geeks — don’t keep score during the drama.) Like Panahi’s WHITE BALLOON and CRIMSON GOLD, it’s a simple premise that gets developed to the fullest in the course of a long day. There are lengthy sequences of 20-plus minutes (here, taking a woman to the bathroom, like CRIMSON GOLD’s pizza man stuck on the street while a vice raid is going on) that actually use plausible drama rather than a soapbox to illustrate how Iranians live with/don’t live with/undermine their theocratic regime’s stifling restrictions on women. To its eternal credit, OFFSIDE also shows how the women are actually real soccer fans and Iranian patriots first — when Iran scores, they chant “Iran forever” and sing the same frenzied cheers the men do (“Iran blankets you with goals” — which I assume sounds better in the original). This is not only more believable — I remember waiting to see Pope John Paul, standing for four hours next to a Brazilian woman who knew as much about soccer and was as opinionated about it as I — but OFFSIDE thus shows how national pride matters. It not only isn’t dimmed by an oppressive regime, but (and I will be vague) such nationalism even offers a space for dissent or undermining such a tyranny. And God bless him, Panahi never pushes that point as such, though it’s plain to anyone with two eyes.

    CASHBACK (Sean Ellis, Britain, 4)

    I didn’t see the same-titled short film that this grew out of, but now I do want to — and not for a particularly good reason. I was assured by fellow film geek Jason Overbeck that the short CASHBACK doesn’t have the most aggravating facet of the feature CASHBACK. That score. Gawd is it ever incessant. We get the standard “Bolero” and Bellini’s “Norma” interpolations (which is obviously fine music in itself) and a lot of piano-tinkling mickey-mousing. A lot. In fact, the music is practically wall-to-wall, particularly during the incessant slo-mo sequences about how you want to freeze time to snatch and savor all the beauty in it — to the point that the music became the dominant fact about the film for me. Imagine the paper-bag sequence from AMERICAN BEAUTY. Now imagine it for about 40 minutes of a 90-minute movie. It’s supposed to evoke all sorts of romantic heartache and longing, but it mostly gave me an ache somewhere else and left me longing for a stiff drink. I began to sympathize with people who say Wong Kar-wai used Yumeji’s Theme too much (but come on … that’s way better music, and it accompanies Maggie sashaying in a qipao). It’s as if Ellis didn’t have enough confidence in his drama — and supporting this thesis, CASHBACK also has a great deal of voiceover narration. Pity. The basic premise (and what the short is) is an OFFICE-SPACE like portrayal of My Strange Workmates at the Supermarket Overnight Shift. Had potential — there are some real eccentrics here. But Ellis tries to flesh it out with backstory into a low-budget romantic comedy. The material was way too thin for that.

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  • It’s Toronto Time
    (”Cashback” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    It’s Toronto Time

    I make my annual pilgrimage to the Toronto Film Festival starting tomorrow, and one person at work already has asked me specifically whether I’ll be seeing the Bush assassination movie.

    I had DOAP on my initial, broken-down-by-days short-list, and I have the scheduling notes to prove it. There are some plot resemblances to THE DAY OF THE JACKAL, so using an assassination (attempt) on a current named political figure as a fictional premise doesn’t per se trouble me (but more on that anon). And the style/premise — a muck-raking “documentary” set in the future tells the real story of what happened in the Bush Assassination — resembles the great ZELIG, which I think is one of Woody Allen’s two or three best films. In a different world, this is a movie I would, in principle, be interested in.

    Unless Noah Cowan’s description is completely bollixed (which would not be unprecedented … in fact in some cases, I’m downright hoping for it), I can’t imagine wanting to see this film at this festival. Most unconvincing line in Cowan’s description — “The film is never a personal attack on Bush; Range simply seeks to explore the potential consequences that might follow from the President’s policies and actions.” Reminds me of George Will’s description of how a negative-campaigning candidate defends his ads: “I am not being negative, I am merely alerting the public to my loathesome opponent’s squalid voting record.”

    I won’t relate the specific examples until Bilge puts up my Worst Moviegoing Experiences on the Nerve Screengrab blog, but I have had enough “lone Celtic supporter at the Rangers end” moments to know how art-house and film-festival audiences will consume DOAP which will inevitably color my reaction. At Toronto, “Fidelista” is a term of praise (just read this and weep) and Bush Derangement Syndrome and Christophobia are normal. First example to pop into my head from this year, go to the listing for AMAZING GRACE and ask yourself how you would know, other than a vague and unspecified reference to “man of the cloth,” whether religion might be involved and (more specifically) how, and what the title might refer to (you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a reference to how hot the chick in the picture is).

    In this time, at that context, DOAP will be consumed as a masturbatory fantasy and I wouldn’t put a round of applause or cheering. Maybe someday, alone, after the film has died its death and nobody remembers how Karl Rove tried to turn Valerie Plame over to Osama bin Laden in exchange for campaign contributions to pay off Katharine Harris (that IS what he did, right?), I’ll see DOAP Not now.

    I dunno why this film hasn’t gotten as much flak. But if DOAP is inherently and a priori distasteful, it’s hard to see why a film called HOW I PLANNED TO KILL TONY BLAIR wouldn’t be. Still, while I’m pretty much past the point of interest in anything the artist/bohemian class thinks it has to say about politics, I will be going to see at least one political doc. THE DIXIE CHICKS: SHUT UP AND SING has the potential to be a HARLAN COUNTY USA (director Barbara Kopple, plus my unfamiliarity with the Chicks’s music, is why I’m interested) or the few minutes of FAHRENHEIT 9/11 that I managed to endure when I finally broke down a few months ago and it was playing on a free channel (Sundance). When I know the personages involved, I try to pay as little attention to the descriptions in the Festival Guidebook, so I’ll approach DIXIE CHICKS with the guarded optimism that is obligatory.

    As for my schedule, this year was one of the worst for not getting my first choices — I must have drawn a bad box. For the couple of days, i.e., opening weekend, I mostly got second-choice films (though mostly pretty good ones) and overall missed more than a half-dozen of my first choices.

    I didn’t get the single to-the-general-public morning screenings of Gala presentations and likely fall awards-bait VOLVER by Almodovar and Inarritu’s BABEL, the former of which I’m more bummed about and will consider going into the rush line to see if I can get a ticket. After all, Almodovar has reportedly managed to get a tolerable performance from Penelope Cruz, acting in Spanish again and who, like Sophia Loren (a previous generation’s favorite Latin sexpot), is much better in her native language.

    Some of the other not-gotten 1st choices, all of which I’m considering rushing:
    ● There is much anger in me when I not getting much ticket to important Kazakhstani cinema. Will start and joining with campaign against racist film making many funs of great country Kazakhstan.
    ● I should have known that the title THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO CINEMA would just be too attractive to too many, even (especially) to those with no knowledge of Slavoj Zizek (apparently playing a Michael Palin-like guide). I hope they choke on the Lacanisms.
    ● Why the heck would a Kore-eda film (HANA) be a big buzz item? I thought NOBODY KNOWS was a masterpiece, but it was not a crowd-please at all. And while it did win a general release, it flopped.
    No Maddin 06. Like with the Kore-eda I hope it’s because a great filmmaker is finally winning an audience, but man, this would have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience — seeing a silent film with an orchestra, which includes a sound-effects team, a singer and a narrator. The kind of screening a festival is made for.

    But I can’t complain too hard. Here is my schedule of the films I got ticket for, and it’s a good mix of foreign and English, my favorite auteurs and buzz titles, austere and popcorn, and a few blind stabs in the dark — exactly what a festival is about:

    7 Sept
    02:00pm The Magic Flute (Kenneth Branagh, Britain)
    09:00pm The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Germany)

    8 Sept
    09:00am 12:08 East of Bucharest (Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania)

    Dunno why I got both my 1st and 2nd choices for this time … will sort out later

    09:30am The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn, Canada)
    11:45am Requiem (Hand-Christian Schmid, Germany)
    03:00pm Climates (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey)
    06:15pm A Grave-Keeper’s Tale (Chitra Palekar, India)
    09:00pm Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show (Ari Sandel, USA)
    midnight The Host (Bong Joon-ho, South Korea)

    9 Sept
    09:15am La Tourneuse de Pages (Denis Dercourt, France)
    noon The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach, Britain)
    03:00pm The Fall (Tarsem, Britain/India)
    06:30pm Half Moon (Bahman Ghobadi, Iran)
    09:15pm Woman on the Beach (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea)

    10 Sept
    03:15pm Born and Bred (Pablo Trapero, Argentina)
    06:30pm Offside (Jafar Panahi, Iran)
    08:45pm Cashback (Sean Ellis, Britain)

    11 Sept
    09:30am All The King’s Men (Steve Zaillian, USA)
    noon For Your Consideration (Christopher Guest, USA)
    03:30pm 10 Items or Less (Brad Silberling, USA)
    06:00pm Fay Grim (Hal Hartley, USA)
    09:00pm I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone (Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan)

    12 Sept
    09:00am Takva – A Man’s Fear of God (Ozer Kiziltan, Turkey)
    11:45am The Pleasure of Your Company (Michael Ian Black, USA)
    03:00pm Coeurs (Alain Resnais, France)
    05:30pm Outsourced (John Jeffcoat, USA)
    midnight Trapped Ashes (Joe Dante, Ken Russell, Sean Cunningham, Monte Hellman, John Gaeta, USA)

    13 Sept
    09:30am Dixie Chicks – Shut Up and Sing (Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck, USA)
    noon Mon Meilleur Ami (Patrice Leconte, France)
    02:30pm Little Children (Todd Field, USA)
    04:45pm Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul aka “Joe,” Thailand)
    09:00pm Grbavica (Jasmila Zbanic, Bosnia)

    14 Sept
    noon Breaking and Entering (Anthony Minghella, Britain)
    03:00pm The Fountain (Darren Aronovsky, USA)
    06:00pm King and the Clown (Lee Jun-ik, South Korea)
    09:30pm Red Road (Andrea Arnold, Britain)
    midnight Severance (Christopher Smith, Britain)

    15 Sept
    09:45am A Few Days Later (Niki Karimi, Iran)
    12:45pm The Island (Pavel Lounguine, Russia)
    03:00pm Seraphim Falls (David von Ancken, USA)
    09:00pm Belle Toujours (Manoel de Oliveira, France)

    16 Sept
    08:45am The Dog Problem (Scott Caan, USA)
    noon The Banquet (Feng Xiaogang, China)
    04:45pm Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog, USA)
    09:00pm Lights in the Dusk (Aki Kaurismaki, Finland)

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  • Toronto — grades – Days 3 and 4
    (”Cashback” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    Toronto — grades – Days 3 and 4

    The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach, Britain, 2)
    The Fall (Tarsem, Britain/India, 7)
    Half Moon (Bahman Ghobadi, Iran, 5)
    Woman on the Beach (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea, 9)

    Born and Bred (Pablo Trapero, Argentina, 4)
    Offside (Jafar Panahi, Iran, 8)
    Cashback (Sean Ellis, Britain, 4)

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