VIFF: A Fantastic Woman & The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Una Mujer Fantástica – A Fantastic Woman (subtitled)

If I didn’t know any better I would swear this movie was directed by Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar (Volver, All About my Mother). But it was not. Instead it was Chilean director Sebastián Lelio (who made the smash hit Gloria in 2013).

This is a timely film.  Because it is about time that people are more compassionate and at the very least, more tolerant of those who are different than what those of us less broad minded deem to be “the norm” in society.  But guess what?  This is the new normal.

I found this film to be beautiful, disturbing, touching and frustratingly maddening.  It makes you want to fight for equality.

The main character is played triumphantly by Daniela Vega, an actual trans performer.  As Marina, a nightclub singer living with Orlando, her much older heterosexual lover (played by Francisco Reyes) who suddenly dies, you see her struggle in dealing with non-acceptance and disrespect from all angles. From the police who suspect her to be a factor in Orlando’s death, to the ex-wife who doesn’t want her to come anywhere near the funeral because she will only upset the family….she is humiliated constantly. 

Even so, she faces it all with dignity and a strength most of us would envy.  A powerful movie.  A Fantastic Movie!  I give it a score of 5/5.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a whole other animal.

Here is a perfect example of two top-notch performers: Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell being cast in a perfectly flat out psychological disaster of a movie.  Sorry; but that’s just my opinion.  I’m not saying the performances were not good (the characters were supposed to be flat, joyless and strange I’m guessing) but overall it was so disjointed with no explanation given to……too many situations.  But the music was anything but flat.  It was over the top (again; meaning to be) outlandish.  I never saw the film “The Lobster” but apparently it was a pretty good twisted movie, directed by the same person – Yorgos Lanthimos.

In a NUTshell Farrell plays Andrew, a surgeon who’s patient dies while undergoing an operation.  The patient’s son Martin (played by Barry Keoghan) is a total screwball looking to get back at Andrew.  He keeps showing up in oddball places while I keep wondering (trying to make sense of course) why Andrew keeps allowing him access.  Well it is a movie after all so just don’t question the bad sensibility of the surgeon who invites this boy into his home and brings harm to his once happy family.  And it just goes (and goes, and goes on) from there.  And it gets even weirder.  And there’s spoiler alert: NO happy ending.  My final words are:  I’m just not that into this one!

Special mention: Okja

AND here I thought the special presentation of “Okja” was strange………….  although that one had amazing computer-generated imagery (CGI), and Tilda Swinton who did an excellent job (as always) playing the big boss-lady of a huge company manufacturing genetically modified super pigs.  Also, a surprisingly zany Jake Gyllenhall.  It had everything….humor, violence, glamour, scenery, car chases, crazy people, animal rights activists, capitalists, consumers and mostly, an innocent animal friend. I found it very schizophrenic but with outstanding direction from Bong Joon Ho.  Very Hollywood.  Now streaming on NefFlix.

If I lived up in the mountains of South Korea with only my grandfather for companionship, I’d love to have Okja for a pet.

More reviews to follow

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the films playing until October 13th @  https://www.viff.org/

 

 

 

 

ART/FILM/VIFF: Loving Vincent

I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.

This anticipated animated film about Vincent Van Gogh was a real story telling treat.  What’s so amazing about this film is that it is entirely hand painted with Van Gogh’s paintings serving as the backdrop for each frame.  In fact, it is the very first fully painted feature which took seven years to complete.  It’s visually astonishing!

The story takes place in the French village of Arles (a place I visited with my husband where we sat in the famous Terrasse du café le soir.  Yes; that one!

The son of a local postmaster goes around hunting for clues as to why the painter took his own life. There were conflicting reports as to whether he actually committed suicide. The question is really why Vincent went from a complacent quiet man to someone who would take his own life in a matter of weeks.  A look into a complicated, talented but tortured soul.  Sad that in his lifetime he sold only one of his fine works.  Can you imagine?

He saw beauty in the tiniest of objects and in things that most people would deem insignificant.  A man of true genius.

I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.”

I dream of painting and then I paint my dream – Vincent Van Gogh

Your dream came true, it’s just too bad that you were not around to realize it. 

How people all around the world admire your work and can only dream of owning a piece of you!

Please visit: https://www.viff.org to find out more and how to purchase tickets.  The Film Fest runs until October 13th

 

 

 

 

VIFF: BREATHE & MEDITATION Park

Funny thing about timing that the first two movies I’ve chosen to see at the Vancouver International Film Festival would have the words “Breathe” and “Meditation” – two things that I’m trying to better accomplish.  But enough about me.

Meditation Park

How to make choices?

The first thing I look for when going through the movie listings are the film titles, then to find out who the actors are.  It doesn’t go to prove that actors who are well known will make a better movie, but if I’m familiar with and like the actor’s previous work, I’m more likely to want to see another film they’re in.  But since this is an International Film Festival, you must keep in mind that you will NOT likely be familiar with the talented actors and worthwhile great story telling from a host of other countries.

Then of course the overall synopsis.  But I don’t like to know too too much about the movie because it ruins the element of surprise (which can work out good or bad, depending.) I try to keep it diversified mixing drama, comedy, documentary and thriller. Well done animation is good too  The great overall thing about going to a film fest is that you get to see films firsthand.  And that in itself is exciting enough.  So having said that, here are two simplified reviews to begin:

BREATHE

Oh; and the film clip photos in the booklet attract me.  The romantic, dreamy looking picture has two actors whom I admire: Claire Foy (she played Queen Elizabeth II in the Netflix series “The Crown” which I became addicted to) and Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge, The Amazing Spiderman). Suffice to day that was enough of a decision for me to say YES.  Bonus: Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey – watched ALL episodes as it was one of my favourite series).

Breathe is an inspiringly beautiful but tragic story.  In a debut directorial role, Andy Serkis directs the true story of the parents of his best friend and producing partner, Jonathan Cavendish.

It’s about how a couple, Robin and Diana Cavendish refuse to give up their fight when Robin is struck down by polio at only 26 years old, and just before he is about to become a father.  It’s about how people face challenges and overcome hardship in the face of adversity and with a debilitating disease. It is heartwarmingly sad and uplifting at the same time.

MEDITATION PARK

This film was chosen for the Opening Gala.  Directed by Mina Shum, it’s filmed entirely on Vancouver’s East Side & Chinatown.  While I’m familiar with incredible actors Sandra Oh and Don McKellar, the real star of this film is Cheng Pei Pei (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) who plays Maria.  A  traditional  first generation immigrant Chinese wife, Maria turns a blind eye to her husband’s (played by Tzi Ma) infidelity at first, but when she decides to break from convention, take charge of her life and become more independent, all hell breaks loose.  It is charmingly funny in part and because I live in Vancouver, partly familiar.

The only common denominator between the two films is that they are family dramas.

VIFF is on until October 13, 2017. For information and to purchase tickets please visit: 

https://www.viff.org

 

Feel-good Friday: Film Fest

It’s that time of year again!

The 36th Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF). Otherwise known as movie marathon mayhem.  Well not really; because I’m planning to pace myself to no more than three movies per day.  Actually that will only happen one day, because a few of my weekly evenings are tied up with other commitments.  And it could not come at a better time as I’m really looking forward to losing myself in this years most anticipated international films, new discoveries, special presentations, documentaries, contemporary world cinema, and a spotlight on French filmmaking.

And after having carefully leafed through the VIFF guide and marking down my choices, I’ll be happily sharing my thoughts about each film.  Stay tuned…(especially if you’re a film buff).

VIFF takes place from September 28th to October 13th 2017.  For more information and to purchase tickets please visit:

https://www.viff.org/

Beauty/Culture: the Hoop Earring

Every fashionable woman owns at least one pair of hoop earrings.

Photo; Mitchell Sams

At Marc Jacob’s Fall/Winter 2017 show models stomped down the runway with shiny gold hoop earrings.  They ranged from giant three-tiered hoops to a single thin hoop with a diamond encrusted key dangling from it.

From Marc Jacobs show

In the Spring Box  of Style from Zoe Report were these earrings.

The collection, which was also full of oversized fur collared jackets and monochromatic tracksuits, was inspired by the early days of hip-hop.

“It is an acknowledgement and gesture of my respect for the polish and consideration applied to fashion from a generation that will forever be the foundation of youth culture street style,” Jacobs explained in the show notes.

Hoops are one of the most attractive styles of earrings and they come with a story. Anything interesting comes with a story.

Unfortunately, not everyone who borrows from street culture is as eager to acknowledge the contributions of people who created it. The round jewelry has been a favorite accessory for decades from Cher in the 1960s to Madonna in the 1980s, but hoop earrings have a deep-rooted history in communities of color.

This cultural significance of the hoop earring was brought to light recently when three Latina students painted a message to their fellow classmates at Pitzer College in California about their earrings. They scribbled “White girls, take off your hoops” in bright yellow spray paint on a wall outside of a dormitory, after they noticed an influx of their peers wearing oversized hoop earrings.

Photo: Elliot Dordick, The Claremont Independent

Alegria Martinez, one of the students responsible for the graffiti, wrote an email to the student body that stated that they were sick of white women appropriating styles that “belonged to black and brown folks who created the culture.” The controversy came shortly after Elle dubbed the hoop earring a must-have accessory for fall, thanks not only to Marc Jacobs, but others like Fendi and Michael Kors.

Designers, celebrities, and even retailers have been long accused of taking styles from marginalized groups they think are “cool” without any consideration for the context. Last November, people took to social media to call out Urban Outfitters when it attempted to re-brand oversized gold doorknocker earrings. “The same earrings that people find ratchet or ghetto on black women are now $16.00 and sold at hipsters R us. These are literally a dollar at the nearest black hair store. My culture says you’re welcome,” one woman wrote in a Facebook post that has now been shared over 21,000 times.

Hoop earrings have a very long history dating all the way back to the ancient Sumerians from modern-day Iraq in 2600 B.C.  Different variations of the hoop have been adopted by a range of cultures around the world, from the Hmong women of Vietnam to the Gadaba tribe of India, as Vogue points out. But, in America, the style has often been adopted by women of color in an effort to reclaim their culture and celebrate their history.

Hoop earrings became especially popular among African American women during the Black Power movement in the 1960s when many were embracing Afrocentric dress. From activists like Angela Davis to artists like Tina Turner, more women were adopting an African-inspired look that embraced natural hairstyles and hoop earrings.

As Tanisha C. Ford writes in her book, Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul, “In African-inspired clothing and large hoop earrings and sporting Afros and cornrow braids, Americans and Britons of African descent envisioned soul style as a symbolic baptism in freedom’s waters through which they could be reborn, liberated from cultural and social bondage of their slave and colonial past.”

The statement jewelry carried on into the 70s when it was embraced by disco divas like Diana Ross and Donna Summer. When the 80s rolled around, their thin gold hoops were traded for thick gold “door knocker” and bamboo hoop earrings by hip-hop artists like Salt N Pepa and MC Lyte.

By the 1990s, oversized hoop earrings were a fixture of Chola style, which was embraced by working-class Mexican American women in Southern California. The radical look was defined by slicked-down baby hairs, dark lip-liner, and door-knocker hoop earrings.

But, it was about more than just fashion. As Barbara Calderón-Douglass writes in her piece “The Folk Feminist Struggle Behind the Chola Fashion Trend,” “The chola aesthetic is the result of impoverished women making a lot out of the little things their families could afford.”

Martinez, who grew up in Southern California, says she sees the style as a form of resistance. “We are women of color from Los Angeles, Long Beach, and San Bernadino and that is where this cultural style comes from,” explained Martinez. “Whenever we wear our hoops, or when I wear bold eyeliner and red lipstick, I feel really proud to be from that background.”

Fashion has always taken influences from different cultures. The problem with appropriating styles like hoop earrings is that many women of color still can’t wear these “trends” without facing discrimination for looking too “ghetto.” Not to mention, many of those who are eager to slip on a pair of hoop earrings fail to use their platform for any meaningful discussion about race.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, artist Helena Metaferia

Just last season Marc Jacobs faced a fury of appropriation accusations when he sent a predominantly white cast of models down the runway wearing colorful pastel dreadlocks. The designer had attributed the collection to the style of club kids, but failed to mention that the hairstyle has history in African culture. So, when the designer made a point to attribute his fall 2017 aesthetic to the early days of hip-hop and the people of color who created it, many were eager to praise him for finally appreciating the culture rather than merely appropriating it.

Hopefully, more in the industry will take note.

Source for this Story: http://i-d.vice.com

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern

Speaking of Inspiring Women…

O’Keeffe in a 1929 gelatin silver print by her husband. Credit ALFRED STIEGLITZ; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Alfred Stieglitz Collection

You’ve got to admire how O’Keeffe was the master of her own public persona at a time when there was no social media.  She told photographers how to “shoot her”, not the other way around.

A refreshing new exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum (on until July 23, 2017) for the first time combines O’Keeffe’s art and her wardrobe with photographic portraits. “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern

The painter of simplified images of enlarged flowers, Lake George tree trunks and New Mexico’s terra-cotta hills applied her meticulous sense of austerity and detail to every garment she owned. Some she designed and sewed herself, others she had custom made, and still others she bought off the rack or in antique shops (Japanese kimonos, for example).

O’Keeffe’s self-created image shaped her work’s accessibility, while at the same time shielding her privacy. This unity is revealed in the links drawn among some 50 works of art and 50 garments or ensembles, accessories included, and nearly 100 photographs of the artist taken by 23 photographers, from Ansel Adams and Cecil Beaton to Andy Warhol and Bruce Weber.

The greatest number of these images were taken by O’Keeffe’s husband, the eminent photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz, often considered her domineering mentor, whom she met in 1916, began living with in 1918 and married in 1924.

For years, O’Keeffe limited her wardrobe to mainly black and/or white, until the Southwest loosened her color sense a bit and also introduced her to denim and jeans. She favored an androgynous look, frequenting the same New York men’s tailor — Knize — (as did Marlene Dietrich), liked Ferragamo flats and wore little jewelry. A rare favorite, visible in many photographs, was a brass brooch made for her by Alexander Calder. It represents her initials, OK, with ancient rock-painting complexity, and she wore it vertically to make it more abstract. In later years, she had it copied in silver, because she thought brass didn’t look good with her white hair.

Source: NY Times

https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/

Arts/Crafts: La Quinta Arts Festival

It’s the whole package!art1This has to be the most remarkable outdoor arts festival I’ve ever been to.  Certainly the largest.art5

what can be nicer than art in a stunning landscape with music, food & friendship.

what can be nicer than viewing art in a stunning landscape with good music, food & friendship?

art20No wonder it has been ranked #1 in the Nation for many years.

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This is the 35th year the Annual La Quinta Arts Festival has returned to the visually stunning setting of La Quinta’s Civic Center Campus in the greater Palm Springs area.art13

As one of the Coachella Valley’s premier attractions, the award winning event attracts art patrons and tourists from across the nation.  The festival raises funds for the Foundation’s non-profit mission of promoting & cultivating the arts.art15art10

The world class artists have traveled from all over to present the very finest in contemporary artwork.  Only 220 gifted artists and crafters are chosen from over 1,200 applicants who vie for the opportunity to showcase their incomparable works of art in the magnificent outdoor gallery.art16art21

Live music, entertainment, delicious food (Ruth’s Chris Steak House had a kiosk with filet steak sandwiches & champagne), wine and beer complement the experience.  A few examples on this page.art18art19

art6images: d. king

Vancouver designer  and textile artist Joanna Staniszkis (r) & Joanne wear her  beautiful creations.

Vancouver designer  and textile artist Joanna Staniszkis (r) & Joanne wear her  ethereal creations.

art9

Art/Nature: DesertX

Well the thing is, art can be found everywhere, even in the desert.  And it makes perfect sense; beauty with beauty.whitewater3

whitewater1

Wildlife with Art

Wildlife with Art

I realized that while taking a nature walk with the dogs right after a picnic.  The location being Whitewater Preserve about 20 minutes northwest of Palm Springs.  An absolutely stunning setting of over 2,000 acres of pristine desert with hiking trails and wildlife.  From a distance I came across what looked like a birding roost, and on closer inspection found out it was made from sand bags.  It’s actually an art piece. built to replicate how pigeons in Israel are put to roost. But it’s hard to keep up with everything that’s going on around town especially now, so I had to find out *more.
whitewater5whitewater6

*From Feb. 25 through April 30, 2017, the Coachella Valley and its desert landscape will become the canvas for a curated exhibition of site-specific work by established and emerging artists, whose projects will amplify and articulate global and local issues that may range from climate change to starry skies, from tribal culture and immigration to tourism, gaming, and golf.  The artworks, in various indoor and outdoor locations will be available for free and will offer visitors a way to see the valley and reflect on serious and playful issues through the lens of the participating artists’ creativity and work.

You never know what you will encounter while out on a simple walkwhitewater2

CHECK out this short VIDEO:

https://www.desertx.org/about-us/

You never know what you will encounter while out on a simple drive

On the drive to the nature preserve you will come across hundreds on windmills20170224_140637The windmills are there for power generation with renewable energy.  However I hate them for the fact that the valley is infamous for the number of birds that are killed because of them.

Photos: d. king

 

 

Oscar Night – let the parties begin

Image credit: Chris Pizello/AP 

Image credit: Chris Pizello/AP

Entertainment and entertainers in general are more important than ever these days when we want to lose ourselves in someone else’s drama rather than our own at home.

And if you want a really good laugh and you haven’t already seen it (most have) you’ve got to check out Melissa McCarthy’s SNL portrayal of Sean Spicer. Way too funny!  It’s a way of finding lightness & humour in the absurd day to day real life performances. She should get an Oscar. As they say there is always something good that comes out of something bad.  Which brings me to tonight at the Oscars.  It’s Hollywood’s biggest night and with all talented people involved there is only one who gets to take home the prize in each category.  Every year it seems more difficult to choose only one winner when there are so many deserving nominees.

Past Winners: Penelope Cruz, Halle Berry & Audrey Hepburn.

Past Winners: Penelope Cruz, Halle Berry & Audrey Hepburn.  LOVE the dresses!

You might be surprised to find out who the biggest losers of past academy award shows were.  I know I was, which just goes to prove….there is more than just one winner in each category. Before finding out which dreams will come true and who might be overlooked, let’s take a look back at some of the biggest surprise Oscar snubs of years past.

The most fantastic biggest Losers:

1) Bette Davis, Of Human Bondage 

The 1934 film adaptation of  W. Somerset Maugham’s novel starred Bette Davis as tea-room waitress Mildred Rogers, who draws Philip Carey into an obsessive and abusive relationship. Davis originally did not receive a nomination for her performance, and the public was so upset by the oversight that a special write-in campaign was permitted to recognize her.

2) Judy Garland, The Wizard of Oz

Possibly my all-time favourite movie!  Judy Garland won hearts all over the world with her performance in the MGM musical as Dorothy Gale, the plucky girl from Kansas who ends up over the rainbow and determined to return home. The New York Times described her as “a pert and fresh-faced miss with the wonder-lit eyes of a believer in fairy tales,” yet Garland did not receive an Academy Award nomination for her timeless performance.

3) Peter O’Toole, Lawrence of Arabia

Peter O’Toole was heralded for his performance in this 1962 blockbuster film, which won seven Academy Awards. Its accolades included best picture, but failed to recognize O’Toole’s performance chronicling his experiences in the Arabian Peninsula during World War I. O’Toole went on to earn seven more nominations throughout his career — but he never took home an Oscar.

4) Martin Scorsese, Taxi Driver

This psychological thriller is famous for the cast, the story and the famous line, “You talkin’ to me?” But one aspect of the film that wasn’t entrenched in history was an award nomination for director Martin Scorsese — even though the film received nominations for best picture, best actor in a leading role for Robert De Niro and best actress in a supporting role nominations for Jodie Foster.

5) Jack Nicholson, The Shining

The idea of Jack Nicholson accepting an award for his performance as Jack Torrance by saying, “Here’s Johnny!” is a thrilling fantasy, but the opportunity never materialized, as Nicholson did not receive an Oscar nomination for his role in the Stanley Kubrick-helmed adaptation of the Stephen King novel.

6) Leonardo DiCaprio, Titanic

Despite his starring role in the 1997 blockbuster that drove devoted fans to watch the movie over and over, Leonardo DiCaprio did not receive an acting nomination for his performance as Jack Dawson. The movie took home 11 Oscars of 14 total nominations.

7) Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty, a grim, gritty and powerful film, was nominated for best picture — but its director, Kathryn Bigelow, was not recognized with an Oscar nod. Long criticized for its lack of racial and gender diversity, the Academy was accused of overlooking Bigelow — who became the first woman to win two best director awards from the New York Film Critics Circle — because of her gender.

8) Ava DuVernay, Selma

The critically acclaimed civil rights film that narrated the epic march from Selma to Montgomery tapped into heated emotions about racial relations in America — and that was before the cast wore “I Can’t Breathe” shirts to a screening. The film, considered controversial due to its depiction of former President Lyndon B. Johnson, received nominations for best picture and best original song. The omission of director Ava DuVernay, a black woman, from the nominations was hotly debated.

9) Alfred Hitchcock

Despite securing five nominations, somehow the acclaimed director known for suspenseful films like Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo and Rebecca never won an Oscar.

Possibly my all-time favourite dress is drumroll….

Jennifer Lawrence in Christian Dior Couture

Jennifer Lawrence in Christian Dior Couture

Source (for biggest losers): Carey Purcell for Arts.mic