Mark Webber’s The Place Of No Words

“Where do we go when we die?” It’s a simple question as any, yet not so much, especially for a terminally ill father to answer when asked by his son, who is young enough to still be inundated in the unknowable, lingering perception of whatever came before his birth, a state of innocence engulfed in the abstract, the early stage of images and impressions in which we all existed before ‘words,’ ‘thoughts’ and ‘facts’ eclipsed the feelings and we forgot what it was like to be to feel rooted in the spirit realm. Mark Webber’s The Place Of No Words sets out to tell us an impossibly heartbreaking story in as uplifting, lyrical and compassionate way as possible using fractured prose, fragmented editing and the most convincing visual, allegorical and artistic expression from the perspective of a child that I have perhaps ever seen in cinema. Remember when you were young and certain key, core memories, simple in themselves, contained entire worlds of meaning and significance greater and more profound than could be described? This whole film is structured around a few essential recollections just like that, belonging to a young child named Bodhi Webber, who is playing himself in one of the most naturalistic, inherently inspired, momentous pieces of work you could hope for. Writer director Mark Webber plays himself too as does his wife Teresa Palmer, and we get to see this family unit interact in the same realistic way they no doubt do away from cameras and the result is a captivating, authentic, immersive, deeply dreamlike experience like no other. Mark (in this story) is dying of an unnamed terminal illness, while Bodhi processes, rationalizes and deals with this agonizing metamorphosis the way any child does, by conjuring up a fantasy world to exist in that serves as prism projection of everything around him he’s too young to understand. Much of the film is spent with Mark and Bodhi as two sort of Viking knights, journeying through the lush Welsh countryside on a quest to find ‘Freeka Reeka Sheeka Deeka.’ They encounter a witch, an angelic fairy princess, two wooly ‘dog’ trolls, a knight (Eric Christian Olsen) who fights himself and make their way through a swamp that literally farts and poos geysers of chocolate sludge (such is the mind of a child). What really makes this film special is the editing and overall tone, which is all over the place in the best way possible. The transitions between the fantasy world and hazy real life memories come without warning or traditional plot structure and feel just about as organically synaptic as you can get. The performances, Bodhi in particular, cut deep and the decision to use real family members is something intuitively out of this world. For all it’s whimsy and fantastical charm though, this is an emotionally crippling film and if you’ve lost anyone to illness and are still the least bit raw about it, go into this guarded because it’s downright disarming. I can’t think of another film that uses a central performance, subconsciously felt editing and intense metaphor to place the viewer in a childlike state of mind so well. Brilliant, beautiful, masterful film.

-Nate Hill

Nickelodeon’s Snow Day

Lol anyone remember Nickelodeon’s Snow Day? It’s one of those early 2000’s kids comedies that now exists in a time bubble all its own. They’ve neither aged well nor poorly, they just simply… are (kind of like Max Keeble’s Big Move). I remember watching this on YTV on a legit actual Vancouver snow day when I was a kid and nothing beat the sheer delirious elation that there’s no school and you can run outside for all kinds of wintry hijinks and destruction.

This one is adrift with subplots and iconic adult celebrities in cameos, and unfortunately mostly revolves around one idiot lovesick teen (Mark Webber) trying to woo the most popular girl in the neighborhood (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who is newly single. It’s a lame, tired and kinda misinformed motif but thanks to the sheer pandemonium revolving around it, the film is still pretty fun. Chevy Chase has a bit as his dad, the local tv weatherman forced to endure intense degradation by wearing a different winter themed costume for every broadcast, but it’s no less humiliating than the actor’s entire career overall, to be honest. There’s a running gag involving the school principal (Damien Young) who just wants to get home but keeps getting peppered by snowballs from an armada of unseen kids who ambush him at every turn. Other welcome appearances come from Pam Grier, Jean Smart, John Schneider and, uh.. Iggy Pop as a weirdo radio DJ.

Probably the most memorable element of the film is perennial Hollywood simpleton and lowbrow comedic jackass Chris Elliott as Snowplow Man, the only one with the unholy power to clear the roads and get school back in session. This makes him target zero for the neighbourhood kids and their furious battle against him is where the film really cuts loose and he gets to chew more scenery than he did as that handicapped Amish dude who kept saying “pee pee vagina” in Scary Movie 4 (I still laugh like an immature kid at that to this day). He laugh like a maniac and calls his plow truck ‘Darling Clementine’, it’s an inspired piece of WTF arch-villain-ry. It’s all in good fun, but the romantic central thing is just so dumb. Sissy Spacek’s daughter plays the guy’s best friend who is clearly head over heels for him while he ogles the classic popular chick and it’s painful to watch. Nevertheless, I hold a nostalgia for this and I wish they’d release it streaming somewhere to put on when we get legit snow days like today.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory with Nate: 13 Sins 

13 Sins is a mean, mean movie, one that pushes it’s audience as far as the central premise does it’s characters. By push I mean it gleefully tries to figure out just how many acts of nasty human depravity it can parade before you before the laughs turn to “oh damn, that’s actually horrible.” Me being the sicko that I am, I laughed pretty much straight through til the bombastic finale, but I recognized the rotten nature in the story and felt the weight all the same. The idea is simple: One day a financially troubled man (Mark Webber, who just has one of those faces you want to punch) gets a mysterious phone call from a game show host sounding dude, telling him to swat a fly, after which one thousand dollars will be deposited into bis account. Easy enough, right? Yeah, sure. Now he’s had a taste of money, wants in on the game and has no clue what soul crushing horrors await. Each new task gets more violent, disgusting, risky, disturbing and (if you’ve got the right mind for it) increasingly hilarious. Make a child cry. Push an old woman down a flight of stairs. Set a church nativity scene on fire. Cheery stuff. Then shit gets real and he’s asked to do things right out of a horror movie, all in the name of green money. The aim, besides of course amusement, is to prove that anyone can be turned into a monster if the price is right. As funny as it is, it leaves a sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach, like you’ve been kicked in the nuts by every horrible news report of late, a gnawing reminder of what levels humans are capable of sinking too when they have too much time and money on their hands. Ron Perlman plays the obligatory baffled police detective, always one step behind the action, and watch for veteran Tom Bower too. The film kind of falls apart near the end, as what little believability it had evaporates alongside the forced plot twists, but had it remained lean and simple I think it would’ve fared better. All its forgiven when considering the impact it makes though, both as action social horror story, extremely black comedy and alluring thriller.