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?

 

 

“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:

 

 

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/

 

 

“7 Days to Vegas” – World Premiere

In the wonderful world of Poker you can’t even trust your friends.

If you’ve ever wondered about how much cheating goes on in the gaming industry, this movie will certainly enlighten you.

This is not the first high stakes gambling movie ever made. Maybe you remember “The Sting”, “Rounders” or “The Cincinatti Kid.”  But I must say, having just viewed the world premiere of “Walk to Vegas”at the 30th Palm Springs International Film Festival, it is certainly one of the most intriguing and one of the funniest I’ve ever seen.  It was refreshingly different.

These eccentric people will go to almost any length for money. 

Inspired by a true story about Hollywood big shots who will bet on anything, “Walk to Vegas” is about a friendly poker game with colorful, questionable characters which winds up turning into a walk from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for a $5 million bet.

This independent movie by the Van Patten brothers (James and Vincent) was filmed right here in Palm Springs. Multi-talented Vince Van Patten, an ex-child star, former tour professional tennis player, and commentator for the World Poker Tour…wrote, starred and produced this captivating film.  His real life wife, the stunning Eileen Davidson, also stars as his wife in the film and helped produced it.

Real life actor & poker player Jennifer Tilly has a cameo as herself in one of the scenes. I’ve always loved Jennifer Tilly in anything I’ve seen her in.  She was amazing in Bullets Over Broadway – one of my favorite Woody Allen films.   In this role she plays herself authentically (I assume, not knowing her personally).  Anyway…

The energy of the sold-out crowd in the theatre was remarkable compared to other screenings I’ve attended.  The audience certainly showed their appreciation.  Many of the cast members were in attendance and got up on stage for a Q&A after the screening. It was superb.

Side note: turns out the father of one of my friends from Los Angeles is also one of the producers of this movie. Small world!

Bravo!

 

Ringing in the New Year starting with….

I look forward to this time of the year. It always starts off with a bang.  The bang being fireworks for New Year’s Eve and after a day or so of recuperation (depending of course on how much partying I do)…..my favorite way to start the year is by viewing & reviewing a bunch of great films at the Palm Springs International Film Festival; one of the largest film festivals in North America.  It’s always an exciting time to be in Palm Springs.

  • On Thursday, January 3, the annual Film Awards Gala will kick off the festival at the Palm Springs Convention Center.  The gala honours the best achievements of the film year by a celebrated list of talents.
  • The screening portion of the festival will run Friday, January 4 through Monday, January 14.

The Festival welcomes over 135,000 attendees each year for its lineup of new and celebrated international features and documentaries.  Produced by the Palm Springs International Film Society, the Festival offers 12 days of events and film screenings featuring over 200 films from 78 countries.

I don’t present myself as a movie critic or pretend to be one.  I only attend the films and documentaries that interest me personally and blog about it for this website.  So I am obviously hoping to “like” everything I see and am aware that what I like, you may not.  I’m looking to be entertained and learn something new.  And I feel privileged to be given media passes to premieres and special events.

YELLOW IS FORBIDDEN. Star Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei, the face of the “new China,” gave documentary filmmaker Pïetra Brettkelly an all-access pass for this fascinating — and occasionally troubling — behind-the-scenes look at Guo’s life and the run-up to her make-or-break Paris runway show.

See you at the movies!

 

 

 

Jane Goodall – All Good

Young Jane

I was very fortunate to be able to attend the special fundraising event An Evening with Jane last night at the Centre for Performing Arts.  Part of the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF).

Overall yes; she’s an incredible woman, not only for having dedicated her life to studying chimpanzees in the wild.

Everyone has heard of Jane Goodall although some still tend to confuse her with Dian Fossey (as did a flight attendant who recently made a big fuss but when she learns that Fossey died in 1985 will feel pretty foolish).  Goodall recounts the story with humor and points out the importance of laughter.  You can’t help but like her as she discussed her life’s work which is groundbreaking in scope and has revolutionized our understanding of nature and humanity, as well as her hopes for the future.  She’s funny too.

She takes no fees for appearing in person, preferring to raise funds and donate all monies to promote the understanding and protection of chimpanzees and other great apes, along with their habitats. This special charity event helped raise funds for the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada.

 Her story is an otherworldly one considering she went to the wilds of Africa as a young woman and with no training whatsoever.  She had this dream as a child.  She lived her dream.
In the documentary preceding the sit-down discussion we find out more than we ever knew about this incredibly selfless human.

Story:

In 1960, at the age of 26 and with little academic training, Jane Goodall set off into the forests of what is now Tanzania to study the relatively unexamined life of the chimpanzee. Her discoveries led to a lifelong fascination with our primate kin, and she went on to transform the world’s view of them.

During the filming of this feature, Oscar-nominated director Brett Morgen unearthed 16mm footage shot by Hugo van Lawick in the 1960s. It is this gorgeous archival material–plus the energetic presence of Goodall herself–which elevates Morgen’s portrait to the highest level of biographical documentary. The film delivers a powerful and uplifting portrayal of Goodall, a supremely intelligent woman who has transformed our relationship to the animals more like humans than any other creature–and is still, as an octogenarian, fighting the good fight on behalf of ecologists everywhere.

She’s a name dropper too… letting us in on a little secret that Leonardo DiCaprio will be making a feature about her life.

This story is on-going…

Donations can be made at: janegoodall.ca/ways-to-give

 

Film: Colette

You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm 

Quote by the “Real” Colette

I don’t know what I enjoyed most about this film.  The story, the setting or the exquisite costumes.

For those not familiar, Colette was a French novelist nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. Keira Knightley gives the performance of her professional career as Sidonie-Gabrielle Collette in her earlier years as she turned Paris upside-down with her life and work.

As a writer, performer and a feminist, Colette attracted controversy and lived life to the fullest.

Movie Still

You may think that you know nothing of Colette’s writings but many of her works are well known around the world. The film “Gigi” starring Audrey Hepburn was adapted from Colette’s book of the same name and several of her writings have been adapted for the stage and screen.

She was a fascinating woman, married at the age of 20 to a writer and music critic of whom it was said he was a “literary charlatan and degenerate”.  Whilst married to Henry Gauthier-Villars she wrote her first books (Claudine series) using his nom de plume “Willy”. The books scandalized France – and made the pair plenty of money.

She was the first woman to be given a state funeral in France before being laid to rest in 1954 at the Père Lachaise Cemetery (the same cemetery I once visited where Oscar Wilde is also laid to rest).

Brief synopsis:

Co-starring a perfectly cast Dominic West as Colette’s libertine first husband, the charming rogue and writer known only as “Willy” who took credit for Colette’s first four novels while sharing a lover with her, Westmoreland’s biopic traces the writer-actor’s life from her provincial upbringing to her halcyon days causing an uproar in the salons and vaudeville theatres of Paris. The core of the film, however, is her fraught relationship with Willy and how the constraints and slights she faced ended up engendering a writing career that made her one of France’s most beloved artists. This is a heady, champagne cocktail of a film made all the more delightful by Knightley’s bravura turn.

Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet – Colette

Source: VIFF & The Good Life France

Visit Viff.org to see more intriguing films until October 12th

Film: The Happy Prince

The world is a stage but the play is badly cast – Oscar Wilde

Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde

Poet and Playwright Oscar Wilde is famous for many reasons.   I’m most familiar with his whimsical satire of Victorian society The Importance of Being Earnest – a classic about love, deception and mistaken identity.  A great character study… perfectly cast.

 And I saw his lipstick covered tomb at the renowned Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France.

Other than that, I learned a lot more when viewing the special presentation of THE HAPPY PRINCE at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) yesterday.

No man is rich enough to buy back his past – Oscar Wilde

Actor Rupert Everett gives a simply remarkable performance as Wilde. He also impressively wrote and directed this powerfully empathetic account of the last years of the legendary Irish writer.

A short synopsis:

After spending two years in prison for his homosexuality—”gross indecency” was the official conviction—Wilde exiled himself to Paris, where he continued his self-destructive lifestyle while living in penury. Buoyed only by occasional contact with old friends Reggie Turner (Colin Firth) and Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas), and with his wife (Emily Watson) and two sons far away, he’s a desperately lonely man who assuages his pain with alcohol, drugs and a succession of young men.  Everett was born to play Wilde, and his open, deeply felt film both honours his idol and conveys the essence of a man who, deprived of the things that make life worth living, maintained his ironic sense of humour until the end.

I can resist everything except temptation – Oscar Wilde

More exciting cinema until October 12th at:

Viff.org

For the Love of Film

It’s that time again…Following TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival).  Leafing through the booklet (shown above) there are too many films that I’m anxious to see.  A Sampling:

ANTHROPOCENE: The Human Epoch

Okay; not feel-good but necessary knowledge:
The latest masterful collaboration between Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky isn’t so much eye-opening as mind-blowing as it essays our unprecedented impact on the Earth to stunning effect. The staggering tableaux captured here are at once surreal and sobering, including monolithic machines hell-bent on terraforming their surroundings and potash mines that evoke a bad drug trip. This is filmmaking of the highest order that unfolds on a dizzying, almost inconceivable scale.

Bathtubs Over Broadway

MAD | Music/Art/Design     (Because I LOVE Broadway Musicals)
Where did Chita Rivera, Martin Short and the late Florence Henderson (all present here) get their starts? In “industrial” musicals–musicals commissioned by corporate America from the 50s through the 80s to entertain employees and celebrate, say, bathroom fixtures or Fords… Dava Whisenant’s supremely entertaining film follows industrial musical obsessive Steve Young (a writer for David Letterman, who also appears) as he uncovers a hidden world. “Get ready to laugh, sing, cheer, and be dazzled.”—POV

In My Room (Israel)

Impact | VIFF Impact
Deeply intimate, unexpectedly moving and entirely of its moment, Ayelet Albenda’s documentary unfolds through footage culled from six teenagers’ self-produced YouTube videos. Make no mistake: these aren’t social media stars or influencers. They’re just average kids documenting their trials (including pregnancy and eating disorders) and trying to make some sense of them. The remarkably honest moments they share quickly coalesce into an involving study of the myriad iterations of adolescence.
I’ll be focusing on reviewing a bunch of diverse cinema during the festival.
Source: taken from VIFF website.
Have a great weekend!