FAB FILMS – Vancouver International Film Festival

VIFF may have come to an end, however the last four movies I’ve seen have resonated with me.  They’ll be released to theatres Nationwide November/December. Here are the reviews:

La Belle Époque

La Belle Époque

This French movie (with English subtitles) was chosen for the closing gala.  I had no idea what to expect and ended up loving it!  I had just come from watching the fast-paced Ford vs Ferrari at the Playouse and was not sure whether I wanted to stay or not as I was leaning towards the later second viewing and the first showing ended late.  As patrons made their way out of the theatre (Centre for the Performing Arts) I could not help but notice everyone’s big smiles.  I asked the question before entering – “Is the movie worth staying for?”  A resounding “Yes you must stay, it’s excellent.”  So stay I did.

The movie centers around Victor (a cartoonist played by Daniel Auteuil) and his marriage to vivacious Marianne (Fanny Ardant) which is turning into a disaster.  His son has a friend who has embarked on a new venture “Time Travellers” – a troupe offering clients the chance to go back in time to any moment they wish complete with a team of actors and technicians to guarantee a completely realistic version of whatever era is chosen.  Victor decides to go back to 1974 – the day he first met Marianne to relive the moment and the woman he first fell in love with.  What follows is very entertaining.  The film is witty and original. Highly recommended.

Ford vs Ferrari

Image: Variety

James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma) directs Matt Damon and Christian Bale in this high-speed biographical drama that pits an underdog team of American automotive engineers against Ferrari in the 1966 “24 Hours of Le Mans” endurance race. He tells the tale of real-life superheroes Carroll Shelby (Damon) who wins France’s prestigious Le Mans race in 1959, a rare feat for an American, and Ken Miles (Bale), a brilliant driver who runs an auto shop.

This is a gripping true story that will keep you on the edge of your seat even if like me, you’re not really a fan of racing.  Excellent.  Coming to theatres in December.

Pain and Glory

Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory

This film is in Spanish with English subtitles. Pedro Almodóvar is the Director and that alone made my decision.  Julieta, Volver, All About my Mother, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown…….no further explanation needed.  Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz star in this complicated, bittersweet movie within a movie which is apparently autobiographical.

This film also marks a 35 year reunion between Almodóvar and Banderas who started his career in an Almodóvar film called “Laberinto de pasiones” (1982; Labyrinth of Passion).

I think this paragraph written by Peter Bradshaw (Guardian) sums it up best:

“As ever, Almodóvar has made a film about pleasure, which is itself a pleasure, witty, intelligent and sensous.  It is about love, memory, art, mothers, lovers and most of all it is about itself…the film within a film, the story within a story, the dream within a dream.”

The Two Popes

The Two Popes starring Anthony Hopkins & Jonathan Pryce,

The following review was written by my friend Paul H. LeMay who accompanied me to the screening.  I too was pleasantly surprised by this film. His summary may appear in other publications.

Despite such an unassuming title, “The Two Popes” is anything but bland. Rather, it is a penetrating biopic about German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (excellently played by Anthony Hopkins), and Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, (equally well played by Jonathan Pryce), at a momentous turning point in the Catholic church’s history.

The film’s opening is filled with the sumptuous visual grandeur of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel during a conclave of the Cardinals after the death of Pope John-Paul II.

In real life, the event represented a veritable historical showdown between the church’s more conservative traditionalist Catholic viewpoints – as were championed by Pope John Paul II – and more reform-minded liberal ones, as had been previously championed in the early 1960s by Pope John XXIII. In this more contemporary story however, this same struggle is personified in these two aforementioned figures, who were each prominent papal candidates in their own right. Each effectively represents one of the two prominent psychological poles that continue to define our political divides today.

Yet despite the great philosophical gulf that separates their respective views about Christ’s teachings, we get to see how each man was able to bridge that gulf. What works so beautifully is how we penetrate beneath the outer appearances of their respective white and black cassocks to get a rather intimate glimpse of these two mortal men who are both intent on resigning from the burdens of their respective high status clerical roles, for as we discover, neither wants the onerous responsibility or power that comes with their offices. In this desire for self-surrender, we see their humanity shine through. The fact these two men were able to bridge their own huge philosophical orientation gaps and actually become good friends in real life, demonstrates we can attain no less. In effect, each really did come to love his enemy. The enduring feel good message that comes through in the end is that we are here to help one another, not to control or take from one another. On this score, this substantive film scores 10 out of 10 in my books.

 

AND in between all the above, I managed to see

Judy

starring Renee Zellweger who was absolutely superb as Judy Garland and deserves to win the Oscar.

Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland (l). Young Judy Garland as Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz.”

Many people have no idea about the star’s struggles surrounding the last few years of her life.  And then again, many younger people today have no idea who she is period.  This movie is a must for those who know and especially for those who do not. It’s a close-up look into the life and loves of one of the most talented women in showbiz who was sadly and unfairly taken advantage of.

OK now back to regular movie going….

Seen any good movies lately?

 

 

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Creator Talk: Calling the Shots

Meet the Showstoppers:  FIVE FABULOUS FEMALES in charge.

YEAH LADIES

This is the first time I’ve attended a creator talk as part of the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF).  What was so special about this one is that it was with a panel of five fabulous female powerhouses (names below) responsible for creating and producing some of the current top rated TV shows.

Tim Goodman, chief TV critic from the Hollywood Reporter was asking the questions and it was very inspiring to hear what everyone had to say about the challenges and responsibilities, good and bad, of  being a showrunner.  From manipulating scripts and mapping out plot lines to what they look for when staffing a writers room, they provided an insider’s peek into the dynamics of working in this competitive industry.

They also talked about what they’re currently watching and what excites them.  And they were funny.

Session Participants

Gloria Calderon Kellett
Co-Creator/Executive Producer, One Day at a Time
Sera Gamble
Co-Creator/Executive Producer, You
Alexandra Cunningham
Creator/Executive Producer, Dirty John
Jami O’Brien
Creator/Executive Producer, NOS4A2
Jennica Harper
Co-Creator/Executive Producer, Jann
Tim Goodman
Chief TV Critic, The Hollywood Reporter
Presented by
Pacific Screenwriting Program
You had the power all along my dear.”
—Glenda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

“Jojo Rabbit” & “Who You Think I Am”

Fantasy never goes out of Fashion.  Obsession is Optional.

I saw two more films – part of the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF).  One movie is a satire which takes place during WWII.  The other is present day.  They are both completely different however there is a common denominator which turns out to be that both of the main characters in each film have created their own fantasy.  Both are psychologically damaged.  It’s an interesting character study of obsessed individuals.

Who You Think I Am (CELLE QUE VOUS CROYEZ)

juliette binoche in “who you think I am”

This film is in French with subtitles.  It was the Canadian Premiere.  I wanted to see it because the theme is very current involving online dating…sort of.  But it’s not what you think exactly.  It shows the extremes of getting carried away with the romantic fantasy.

Claire Millaud (Binoche) is a 50+ year old woman who creates a fake profile on social media to spy on Ludo, her lover.  She becomes Clara, a beautiful woman half her age explaining to her therapist that Clara is really her niece.  She is just using photos of her niece.

A friend of Ludo’s named Alex sees her profile and is instantly captivated.  Claire as Clara ends up falling for Alex.  She gets trapped in the fantasy and takes it way too far. This is a more relatable film only in the sense that you can kind of understand how something like this can happen.  Claire is divorced.  Her husband has left her for another woman.  She is not sure about her current relationship status.  Someone new, younger and attractive is paying close attention and the illusory gets intertwined with the reality to the extent that she almost forgets who she really is and cannot stop herself from keeping up the deception.  I found it intriguing at how dangerously misleading many dating profiles can be and what can occur as a result of.  It’s apparent that people tell white lies however this is far more precarious.  Yes…quite the captivating story.  Binoche of course is excellent, as usual.

Jojo Rabbit 

Unfortunately I was not crazy about this film.   Apparently it did well recently at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).  It certainly has its moments but overall it was not for me.

*Taika Waititi (the New Zealand director who also stars at Jojo’s imaginary friend, the one and only Hitler) described Jojo Rabbit as an “anti-fuckface satire.” Based on the novel Caging Skies by Christine Leunens, it’s about a young member of the Hitler Youth named Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) who learns that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl named Elsa (poignantly played by New Zealand actress Thomasin McKenzie)  in their home.  Last summer Waititi tweeted “What better way to insult Hitler than having him portrayed by a Polynesian Jew?” Surely!

My favourite moments were the interactions between Jojo and Elsa where Jojo has a change of heart and realizes with astonished surprise that jews have feelings just like regular people.  Of course the message comes through about revelation and redemption, however in most parts it was just too silly for me and I personally think it missed the mark. On the humour that is!  Other people seemed to love it though.

The movie also stars Rebel Wilson as a proud Nazi child instructor and Sam Rockwell as a gun shooting Nazi.

“A big part of the humour is in identifying with the tragic elements of the film. The New Zealand sense of humour is very dark. Our films are usually very dark and it’s always someone being killed. Usually a child.” – Taika Waititi
*Hunt for the Wilderpeople was one of his previous films
The film fest is on until October 11th.  For information on more films and/or to buy tickets please visit:

 

 

Feel-good Friday: High Tea Time

Afternoon Tea

is high on my list of feel-good things to do in the Fall.  There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be diminished by a nice cup of Tea.

d. king

High Tea is what happens between breakfast and lunch where you catch up with a good friend over a piping hot pot of earl grey and fancy little finger sandwiches, petite scones and petit fours.  I love the variety.  Yesterday I caught up with my friend Marion at Secret Garden Tea Company in Kerrisdale.  It was lovely and delicious.

october & november high tea menu

Your table awaits

From the gleaming china and linen napkins, to the charming tea cozy that nestles your selection of specially blended Secret Garden Tea, our High Tea experience is designed to delight. So settle in. Select your tea and savour your three tier tray of beautifully hand-crafted Signature Miniatures, including sweets, sandwiches, scones, jam and, of course, Devonshire Cream.

High Tea Menu is regularly updated with seasonal delicacies.

d. king

d. king
d. king

I also left with a bag of chocolate cranberry shortbread cookies – the best!

Let’s do it again soon

Join Us

Octoberfilmfest – VIFF

The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF ) is in full swing until October 11th.  I just saw two amazing Special Presentations.

Just Mercy

starring Jamie Foxx, Michael B. Jordan & Brie Larsen

Michael B. Jordan & Jamie Foxx in a scene from “Just Mercy”

This is a true and thought provoking story about young Harvard graduate lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) and his history making battle for justice in Alabama working with death row inmates at a time where the legal system was hell bent on not following the truth.  One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillan (Jamie Foxx) with a disturbing no mercy glance at how corrupt and unfair the people in power were at keeping an innocent man behind bars for a murder he did not commit.  Powerful performances in this discriminating story of people and prejudice.  Intense.

Motherless Brooklyn

starring Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe

Edward Norton in “Motherless Brooklyn”

This is an Incredible film set in the 1950’s written, produced and directed by Edward Norton who is also the main star.  With outstanding performances from the whole cast and twists and turns at every corner, it is surely a worthy Oscar contender.

Lionel Essrog (Norton) is a private detective with an annoying infliction to his character.  Although his mind is quick and his memory impeccable, he suffers from tourette syndrome which makes him twitch and say inappropriate things and act obsessively so he’s always apologizing for his behavior.  At times it is quite funny and Norton carries this off in a superbly endearing manner.  Lionel sets out to solve the crime of who murdered his boss and best friend P.I. Frank Minna (played by Bruce Willis) who pulled him out of an orphanage at six years of age.  While trying hard to solve the mystery he deals with thugs and corruption at almost every turn.

The trail leads to Moses Randolph (Alec Baldwin), a ruthless construction magnate with deep ties to the mayor’s office and a suspicious prowler (Willem Dafoe) who seems to know everything about him.  He follows a beautiful girl from Harlem (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) whose fight against Randolph’s “slum-clearing” operations have targeted her and he must find out the reason why.

Stay tuned for more film updates

For more information and tickets please visit:

 

 

 

 

 

Feel-good Friday: Film

I know Fall is in full swing when the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) starts up again and ends just before Canadian Thanksgiving.

Can’t seem to wrap my head around upcoming Thanksgiving, let alone Halloween followed by American Thanksgiving and finally Christmas and another New Year.  Ok maybe I’m jumping ahead but it’s all happening way too quickly.  Summer just ended and Fall began the very next day.  It’s the full circle cycle.  I don’t know about you, but I’m surprisingly ready to make the change to cozy sweaters.  Last weekend I spent in Whistler with a hot toddy by a log fireplace after soaking in a hot tub.  It was the perfect way to transition to cooler weather.

Me and my pooches on a beautiful autumn afternoon. Queen Elizabeth Park – 09/24/19   Photo: Paul LeMay

Another great way to spend a chilly afternoon or evening is by spending more time at the cinema.  Film Festivals allow you the opportunity to discover unique films from around the world.  The Vancouver International Film Festival is considered to be one of the world’s most prominent film festivals and one of the largest in North America.  I always look forward to getting my hands on a festival guidebook and taking my time to go through it and marking off everything I want to see,

I just saw the premiere Guest of Honour by celebrated Canadian director Atom Egoyan (Ararat, Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter).

Atom Egoyan

I started in theater and I wanted to write plays, but I never really found an original voice as a playwright. I still write plays. I still do theater and opera, but the moment I started making films, which I have to say I started in college because the college dramatic society turned down one of my plays, and out of spite, I went to the film club and said, “Okay, I’ll make it as a movie.” But the moment I held that camera, it just felt like “Oh, this is another character. This is someone watching the drama.” It was always a character for me. I think in the really early films, it literally is the missing person. It’s the person watching. So, it’s what I feel most natural doing. – Atom Egoyan (2014).

Guest of Honour

is a psychological head spin of a story.  It definitely has its twists and turns. Jim, the main character (David Thewlis) is a government food inspector who has the power to close down a family establishment at the drop of a hat.  It gets interesting where in one of the scenes he’s about to give a restaurant its closing papers, however the owner (played by Egoyan’s real life wife Arsinée Khanjian) talks him out of it by inviting him to a private reception being held at the restaurant.  This is where she privately requests that guests treat Jim as “Guest of Honour.”

David Thewlis in Guestof HonourOpening Gala Movie (VIFF)

It gets a little uncomfortable whereby after several glasses of wine he rattles on about some upsetting personal matters.  Matters that include discussing his talented composer daughter Veronica (Laysla De Oliviera) who is incarcerated for a crime she didn’t commit yet insists she deserves to remain in prison for.

If I could sum up this movie in as few words as possible it would be a”beautifully, complicated, dysfunctional drama.”  The best possible kind.

For more information and to purchase tickets please visit:

https://viff.org/

 

 

Food: Homemade Thai Yellow Curry

Fall calls for making a transition in cooking.  Going from lighter foods to more hearty and healthy meals.  The barbeque gets exchanged for the oven, slow-cooker and stove top.  After a long break I recently got the urge to make curries again.

Image: getinspiredeveryday.com

There is supposedly an art to making curry, however it’s really pretty easy to make a wonderful curry from scratch. Once you follow a basic recipe you can tweak it to your own liking.  A little bit more of this and a little less of that.  A few years ago I made Red, Green and Yellow curry pastes – the base for all Thai curries.  Then I ended up freezing them in 3 Tablespoon increments and thawing to use when the urge struck.  I find 3 Tablespoons is enough for a medium spice.

Image: d. king – blending the paste ingredients

Of the three, yellow is my favorite.  Yellow curry paste differs from the others not only in color but also ingredients.  It has ginger instead of the stronger galangal.  It also has cinnamon, more coriander, turmeric and curry powder.  When the dish is served, it is not garnished with kaffir lime leaves but with crispy fried shallots (optional).  You can also use parsley or cilantro.

Image: d. king – crisping the shallots
Image: d. king – tofu with added snow peas.  I gently fried with added turmeric + a little black pepper.
Image: d. king
Image: d. king – the paste being added to pan

This paste is enough for about 4 dishes (depending on how much heat you can handle – more is more) of beef, chicken, fish or veggies. This recipe comes courtesy of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Bangkok – tweaked by me of course.

Ingredients:

7 dried hot red chilies (long ones of the cayenne variety).  You can find them everywhere now.

1 cup chopped shallots

1 Tablespoon *fresh lemongrass that has been thinly sliced, crosswise.

10 small or 5 large garlic cloves, chopped

1-inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

½ teaspoon white pepper powder

1 teaspoon Madras curry powder

½ teaspoon ground Cumin

1 teaspoon ground Coriander

½ teaspoon ground Cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground Turmeric

Original recipe calls for ½ teaspoon shrimp paste (or 3 anchovies from a can, chopped). I omitted this because I couldn’t stand the smell.  It was still excellent nonetheless.

Assembly:

Soak the chilies in 5 Tablespoons of hot water for 1 to 2 hours (or; if pressed for time, put in the microwave for 2 minutes and then let them sit for 20 to 30 minutes).

Combine chilies together with their soaking liquid, into a food processor or a blender along with all remaining ingredients in the order listed above.  Blend, pushing down with a rubber spatula as many times as necessary, until you have a smooth paste.

What you do not use immediately should be refrigerated or frozen and labeled.

For the Main Course:

14-once can coconut milk, left undisturbed for at least 3 hours.

2 Tablespoons peanut oil

3-5 Tablespoons (remember – 3 is medium heat) of curry paste

1 Tablespoon fish sauce (optional)

1 teaspoon thick Tamarind paste

1 teaspoon palm sugar (or brown sugar)

Carefully open the can of coconut milk, without disturbing it too much and remove 4 Tablespoons of the thick cream that will have accumulated at the top.  Stir the remaining contents of the can well and set aside.

Pour the oil into a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat.

When the oil is hot, add the coconut cream and the curry paste.  Stir and fry until the oil separates and the paste is lightly browned.  Reduce the heat to low.  Add the fish sauce, tamarind paste, sugar, the reserved coconut milk, and 2 Tablespoons of water.  Stir and bring to a gentle simmer.  Taste for balance of flavors, adding more fish sauce, sugar, or tamarind paste if needed.

Add your already cooked chicken, beef or **vegetables to the pan and gently heat through for 2-3 minutes.

Garnish with the crispy fried shallots and torn up basil leaves. You can add chopped cashews too.

 

*To make it easier a lot of Asians now suggest using frozen lemongrass (Yes; it’s perfectly fine).  You buy it in a chunk and break off only what you need.

**For this recipe I used extra-firm tofu which I first sautéed on its own.  I crisped up shallots in another frypan.  The veggies were first oven roasted and then added to the pan at the end along with the tofu. Served over jasmine rice,  it was superb.

***I buy cumin and coriander seeds and coarsely chop them in a coffee grinder.

If you make it let me know what you think.  I know it’s a lot of chopping, etc. but totally worth the while.  I’m telling you It will taste better than any store bought version on the market.

XO

 

 

 

Monday Mood: Fall Ahead

What I’m Falling for this season:

Everything in the Fall 2019 Box of Style

 

Make a Statement

Fall calls for bolder jewelry like the gold plated Elisa statement necklace from DANNIJO which can dress up everything from a pair of jeans to evening wear.

JJ WINTERS Ivy leather crossbody bag in rich caramel looks great with everything from late-summer dresses to fall’s chunky knits and jackets.  Crossbody bags are my go-to especially for hands-free dog walking.

Time to Make-Up

 with Hi-Shine Gloss Lip Lacquer from Marc Jacobs Beauty.  Insanely beautiful sheer colors that are non sticky and easily buildable to feel good on the lips.  We were offered one of two choices but there’s more in the collection.


  • Hydrating Lip Gloss Stick in “One Mauve Time”
  • Hi-Shine Gloss Lip Lacquer in “Sugar High”

Fall calls for a change in skincare which for me, means going back to using a high quality serum.  I love  SHANI DARDEN’s Texture Reform Gentle Resurfacing Serum.

Even sensitive skin types can benefit from this gentle retinol serum. It encourages cell turnover, softens lines and reduces signs of sun damage which is especially important after the long summer months.

Time to VIFF

 

MOVIE MONTH begins

Looking forward to viewing some fascinating films and documentaries.

Time for COMFORT FOOD

I’m making pizza, roast chicken, pot roast, thai veggie stew, pasta dishes……and it’s only September.

What are you craving for Fall?

Grill Talk – a local recipe from a local gal

Angie Quaale is a champion for ALL things local.  She is a best-selling cookbook author (“Eating Local in the Fraser Valley,” Random House 2018), a chef and an entrepreneur. Angie lives in Langley, BC and has owned Well Seasoned Gourmet Foods Inc. since 2004. Well Seasoned (in Langley, BC) is a specialty food store, cooking school and catering company with a strong focus on supporting and promoting local producers and suppliers. Her recipes are tasty, straight forward and aim to share the importance of eating local.  Here’s a good one:

Mexican Sweet Potatoes with Black Beans

Ingredients:

1 lb. sweet potatoes (about 2 medium), peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks

2 tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1 small cooking onion, finely chopped

2 tsp Mexican chili powder

½ tsp ground cumin

Kosher salt & freshly cracked black pepper to taste

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 ripe avocado, cubed

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

½ a lime

Tortilla chips or taco shells

Preparation:

Preheat your BBQ to medium high, about 400F.

Create a double layer, approx. 8-inch x 8-inch tin foil pouch.

In a large bowl, combine the cubed sweet potatoes, beans & onions. Drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt, pepper, cumin and chili powder. Toss to combine. Transfer the potato mixture onto the foil in an even layer. Fold the top of your tin foil pouch over the mixture and seal the edges tightly. Place on grill and cook for 18 -22 minutes until your potatoes are fork tender. Remove from the heat and carefully open the foil pouch, garnish with fresh cilantro, avocado, a generous squeeze of fresh lime, crumbled feta and serve with taco chips or warm tortillas.

Angie Quaale Tip:

This can be served as a side dish, a salad or as a filling for some killer tacos.  Leave the cheese out to make the dish vegan and make extra. Transform the leftovers into a breakfast hash by adding a fried egg, guaranteed to cure even the most vicious hangover!

Angie Quaale is the 15-year owner of Well Seasoned Gourmet Food Store