Juno Awards Film

5 films to watch at the 2011 JUNO Awards

The JUNO Awards is breaking its 11-year hiatus from Toronto at the end of this month, and TIFF Bell Lightbox is hosting a seven-day run of classic and contemporary music films to celebrate. Naturally, all of the films in the program either feature Canadian artists, or are made by Canadian directors. Beginning today (March 20th), and leading right up to the award ceremony on the 27th, this selection of films aims to satiate a wide range of musical tastes. Each film will begin with an introduction from a musician, filmmaker, or artist, and many will be accompanied by a live musical performance.

There is much pleasure to be had while immersing in these past generations of jamming. While pretty much all of the musicians being celebrated here are top-notch, the truth is that some films convey their awesomeness better than others. Here are five that do a particularly fine job of it.

Directed by Jonathan Demme - who in 1984 directed Stop Making Sense, the concert film that validates the existence of concert films - this concert film shows Young performing songs from his 2005 album, Prairie Wind. Demme uses as energetic an approach here as he does in his Talking Heads film, while also including some interviews with the band. Those who have never had the opportunity to see the legendary Neil Young perform in person can rest assured; this is up there with the real thing.

Neil Young: Heart of Gold will screen at 7:00 PM tonight (March 20th). The film will be introduced by JUNO Award-nominated recording artists Suzie McNeil and Emm Gryner.

I can't add much to what has already been said about this modern classic. Thirty Two Short Films is about as close to a representation of the way classical music 'feels' as a movie is going to get. Don't let that deter you just because you don't get classical music. You very well might after watching this film. If nothing else, this collection of shorts - ranging from narrative vignettes to avant-garde animation - provides a fascinating portrait of an enigmatic genius.

Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould will screen at 7:00 PM on March 22. The film will be introduced by Brian Levine, Executive Director of the Glenn Gould Foundation. There will also be a special performance by pianist Claudia Chan.

Bruce McDonald has three films in the Juno Awards at 40 program. While his Music from the Big House and This Movie is Broken certainly have their merits, there's no turning down Hard Core Logo. A hilarious and bittersweet portrait of a no-longer popular punk band, it's Canada's answer to This Is Spinal Tap. If you haven't seen it yet, there's no better time than now, since you'll have to see it anyway before you're allowed to check out its presumably unfortunate sequel.

Hard Core Logo will screen at 9:45 PM on March 22.

For Festival Express, director Bob Smeaton uses decades-old footage of the shows, travels, and backstage life of the famous 1970 music tour, the Festival Express. Revisiting this zeitgeist-defining event, spanning from Toronto to Calgary, is a nostalgic trip to a more nomadic and free-spirited point in North American culture. Including appearances and performances by Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, and the Band, this film is a time capsule of the shifts that emerged in the 1970s.

Festival Express will screen at 9:45 PM on March 24. The film will be introduced by concert promoter and music publicist Richard Flohil, who will be joined on stage by Garth Douglas, Executive Producer of Festival Express.

A musical dedication to one of the world's greatest lyricists and voices. Lian Lunson's film is part tribute, part interview, and, mostly, an eclectic, live cover album. In the film, younger musicians like Nick Cave and Rufus Wainwright sing some of Cohen's more iconic songs. The performers often give an interesting twist to Cohen's complex and poetic lyrics (a rendition of If it Be Your Will by Antony Hegarty is particularly jaw-dropping). As talented as the cover artists are, Cohen's own vocal performances in the film serve to highlight just how essential Cohen's distinct voice is to his music.

Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man will screen at 9:45 PM on March 26. The film will be preceded by a video introduction by CBC's Peter Mansbridge and performance by JUNO Award winner Amelia Curran.

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