VIFF: Borg Vs McEnroe

The Perfect Match

The game of Tennis is somewhat compared to the game of Life

When you commit a fault, you are given another chance to get it right.

If you make the same mistake again (double fault) you pay for it.

When you have an advantage, it’s up to you to make use of it. If you don’t, someone else will.

Any point in the match can be a turning point.

Every new game begins with “love all

All of us make our own unforced errors (we all have our imperfections). That doesn’t stop us from trying.

We always want to ace it.  This movie did.

I’m normally not so into sports movies but this one is about one of, if not the, greatest tennis match of all time. The 1980 Wimbledon Men’s Finals between cool Swede Björn Borg and hot tempered New Yorker John McEnroe. It was a stimulating battle of opposite personalities.

Borg was the top tennis player in the world, dominating the sport both on and off the court.  He had already won four Wimbledon championships in a row and this would be a record-breaking fifth.

McEnroe, considered among the greatest in the history of the sport, was famous for his shot-making skills, as well as his confrontational on-court behaviour.

The players are incredibly acted out by Shia LaBeouf (McEnroe) and Sverrir Gudnason (Borg).  It delves in and out of how they first started out in the game and the enormous pressures put upon them.  You realize they have more in common than what is initially perceived.

In the end I found myself rooting for both of them.

The real deal

Last two days for screenings.  Get your tickets here: https://www.viff.org/

 

 

 

VIFF: Bombshell – The Hedy Lamarr Story

Beauty and the Brain

It’s a complicated story. Hedy Lamarr was one of those women who had it all.  Beauty, brains and a career as a Hollywood actress. Perhaps most famous for her movie Samson and Delilah and a whole bunch of other lesser known films.

Born Hedwig Eva Kiesler in Vienna, Austria, to Jewish parents, she was considered an icon, regarded by fans and critics as the most beautiful woman to ever grace the silver screen. But she had so much more to offer than only her looks and it’s a shame she wasn’t recognized for that.  She also had a beautiful mind.  She could have been a scientist. What is so amazing about this documentary by Alexandra Dean, is that it delves beneath the surface of a legendary glamour queen and 40’s sex symbol to explore the depth of her other talents, specifically her mind.

Of course any legend worth her weight in salt is not without scandal. She was no exception and it was a hot mess.  Six ex-husbands, denounced by the Pope at 18, drug addiction and financial ruin. Can you imagine what kind of reality show that would make?

The Hollywood Reporter:

“A mechanically minded, self-taught inventor, Lamarr was 5 years old when she took apart and reassembled her music box; years later, when she was dating Howard Hughes, she allegedly revised his designs for a plane she knew wouldn’t be able to do what he wanted. Her biggest claim to the glam-nerd hall of fame, though, is “frequency-hopping,” an idea she came up with during WWII: Hearing that Allied forces’ radio-controlled torpedoes could be thrown off course by jamming the frequencies transmitted to them, she teamed with a friend, composer George Antheil, to implement a solution. Perhaps inspired by an early remote-control for home radios, the two adapted the mechanism of player-pianos to propose a system that would skip from one frequency to another as a torpedo traveled, with only the broadcaster and the torpedo knowing which frequency would be used at any moment. The two were granted a patent for the device in 1942, but the Navy rejected it. (They put her to work selling war bonds and entertaining troops instead.) But a version of the design was used in the Cuban Missile Crisis, after the patent expired, and worked its way into practically all modern wireless communications tech. “Wi-Fi and Bluetooth — that’s my mother’s technology,” boasts Lamarr’s son.”

Before even seeing this film I loved watching a rare TV interview where she appeared on the Merv Griffin Show in 1969 joined by Woody Allen.  She had a sense of humor and an amazing personality to boot. A total delight. What a woman!

The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) ends on Friday, October 13th.  If you want to see about tickets please visit: https://www.viff.org/

 

VIFF: BLUE 

What lies beneath the waves falls on silent shores

The very first time I went scuba diving was in the Bahamas. Fascinated with what lay beneath the sea, I was lucky enough to go out with a team from National Geographic and swam with sea turtles and lots of Grouper.  I was hooked!  Since that time, and in other locales, I noticed it getting rarer and rarer to spot certain fish and especially sea turtles.  A lot of these creatures have been around much longer than me, and sharks have been around since the time dinosaurs roamed the earth. Which is a lot longer than me.

Karina Holden’s Blue is an important and timely documentary for everyone living on planet Earth. Filmed on location in Australia, Hawaii, the South Pacific, Philippines and Indonesia, it’s a very tough closeup look at our oceans and all disappearing marine life.

It really hits home, as it should. It makes you consider your choices and makes you question how you can make a difference.  How even one person can help make a difference.   Think about it.

Why on earth, in this day and age, are people still cutting off shark fins and throwing shark bodies back into the ocean?  It’s sickening and it made me cry. Seabirds who rely on fish to sustain them are also in rapid decline. We, as a whole, have to do something about it. But there is a chain reaction because uneducated people who have no money and who live in small fishing villages in third world countries thrive on the livelihood of this industry. And $100 per shark fin is a lot of money. It is wasteful and horrific.

WARNING: More than half of all marine life has been lost due to plastic pollution, over fishing, habitat destruction and the expansion of industrialization.

While we get closer to a trek to Mars, why not concentrate first on what we can do here on Earth to make our planet a better place for all living species?

Because a healthy ocean is key to a healthy planet.

Please WATCH this short Trailer:

The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is on until Friday, October 13th.  For tickets and information please visit: https://www.viff.org/

 

 

 

 

VIFF: The Nile Hilton Incident

My reasoning for choosing this feature from the many contemporary world cinema selections were the words “Nile Hilton.”

That’s because I stayed there for almost a month in 1999 (now it’s called the Ramses Hilton) in a beautiful 2-bedroom suite on an executive floor as my husband had business in Cairo.  I would take my coffee on the balcony overlooking the River Nile and enjoy all-day refreshments in the lounge.  It was very decadent at that time and I got to know the staff while Don was working, hung out at the pool and walked a short distance to the Egyptian museum to check out the mummies…more than once.  I got to know a lot of shopkeepers too.  I bought gold jewelry, perfume, leather bags, a silk carpet and a belly-dancing outfit.  I had a lot of time on my hands.  I had my own little incident at the hotel which got resolved quickly with the help of a burly bouncer who came to my rescue, but there were no casualties that I was aware of.

Well that was my first reason. My second was that the movie blurb appeared to be intriguingly film noirish.  It turned out to be better than I had hoped for.  It was a gripping crime mystery filmed on the streets of Cairo; seedy and corrupt. All the elements of a good detective story. It won the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival. This was the Canadian Premiere and the line was loooong.  I sauntered in thinking I had plenty of time to spare but it was already sold out.  I stood in the standby line even with my media pass (“but you don’t understand…I lived at that hotel”).  Just managed to make it, along with my medium bag of $9 popcorn.

An innocent young maid is witness to the murder of a beautiful singer in one of the hotel rooms.  Noredin, The cop who gets involved, (played by Fares Fares, that’s his name) meets resistance at every step of his investigation and you begin to realize that many people are at play here and politics are involved.  Always, right?

The movie is set in a Cairo on the edge of revolution. On January 25, 2011, all across Egypt, millions of protestors from a range of socio-economic and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of Egyption President Hosni Mubarak.  As the engrossing story enfolds, it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

To check out more great cinema at VIFF please visit: https://www.viff.org/

 

 

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/

 

 

 

 

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

 

Culture/Film: Julieta and Elle

We’re still pleasantly engrossed at the Vancouver International Film Festival and I can hardly keep up with the reviews.julieta3 Today I saw two films back to back and I’m a bit mentally worn out.  So much to discover and contemplate but I can tell you a little about the last two films with strong leading women.

I have a lot of appreciation for foreign films.  Many times they have a lot more depth than North American cinema.  I’m a big fan of Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar since having seen Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown1988. It was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film.  And of course All About My Mother (which I loved even more) won an Academy Award for best foreign language film.  The list goes on.  So as soon as I heard that Julieta (the latest Almodóvar , sure to become another classic) was partaking at VIFF I had to schedule time to see it.

Told in flashback over 30 years of guilt and grief, this melodrama is based on three Alice Munro short storiesCritics are saying it is his best film in a decade.

What I love the most about any Almodóvar movie is the character study in itself – all about relationships, it never disappoints and you can guarantee the actors are the best of the best.

Emma Suárez is fabulous as Julieta.  A beautiful woman who is leaving Madrid to start a new life in Portugal.  But before she moves, and by chance, she bumps into a childhood friend of her estranged daughter Antía.  She decides to stay in Madrid and returns to the apartment block where she and her daughter once lived.  Then we’re transported back to the 80’s to find out the story about fate, love and separation.

I enjoyed the film very much but without giving too much away, I unfortunately didn’t completely understand the decision made by Antía (the daughter) and in my opinion it was a very undeserving situation.

Moving on…

elle2

Elle, on the other hand was pretty disturbing in a sick and twisted confrontational sense.  I would classify it as a mystery/thriller with a wink and a twist.

I chose it because it’s a French film which stars Isabelle Huppert and is directed by Dutch filmmaker (and former Hollywood bad boy) Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers).

I liked the strong, seductive unemotional character of business woman (a CEO of a video game company) Michelle (Isabelle Huppert) with her dry sense of humour.  She is superb in the role.  I was disturbed and intrigued. This movie will most definitely spark a debate.

Julieta Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YH5_4osOZK8

Elle Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVBEV1w7too

There are four more days of filmgoing left. For more movie information please visit: https://www.viff.org

Travel/ART scene – Ashland, Oregon 

A FESTIVAL for all SEASONS and all REASONS 

the town

my kind of town

Of all the times I’ve driven through Oregon, not once until now did I stop to discover the vibrant little town of Ashland. Especially since it happens to be my kind of town with shades of Niagara-on-the-Lake.  But that may be because normally we drive to the coast and Ashland is located off I-5 at the south end of the Rogue Valley and about 20 miles from the California border – our main destination.

Rogue Valley vinyards near Ashland in the fall.

Rogue Valley vineyards near Ashland in the fall

Surrounded by breathtaking scenery, majestic mountains, rushing rivers, rolling foothills and dramatic landscapes, Ashland is a gorgeous little city with an arts scene as appealing as its setting.

Shakespeare Festival

Shakespeare Festival

Ashland hosts Christmas celebrations and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (one of the largest and oldest regional theatres in the country) in winter, a film festival in the spring, classical music festival in summer and wine tasting celebrations in the autumn.

Not to be outdone by the festivals, is the food which seems to be right up there along with the quality of the art and wine scene.  A local gave my travelling companions and I some recommendations of places to eat.  They did not disappoint.
ashland3

We had dinner here

We had a very nice dinner at Larks

We had brunch here

We had brunch at Morning Glory

We had dinner and cocktails at Larks (located in the historic Ashland Springs hotel) and for breakfast we went to Morning Glory (located in a heritage house) – photo below.
We were met there by the woman who made the recommendations – an interesting person who is the godmother of a mutual friend.  Her father and grandmother are subjects of an oil on canvas painting by none other than Renoir which hangs at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.  *Her story is worthy of a blog post of its own.

Ashland is worth the visit and I will plan to spend a bit more time there on my next trip.

Have  you been?