VIFF: The Florida Project

Two things drew me to this film: 1) Willem Dafoe is in it 2) it shows the gritty side of living near a place where dreams come true.

That place is Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

On the other side of the tracks, just outside the magic kingdom lies a bunch of rundown motels originally built for the overflowing tourist trade looking to save a buck but still be close enough to get fairy dusted.

But this is not an enchanting story. It revolves around a specific motel The Magic Castle. A mother/daughter relationship, a place where tough talking families live, barely able to make ends meet, scraping by just to make the monthly rent as the housing crises rises. The inwardly frustrated although patient motel manager, is played outstandingly by Dafoe. But the real stars of this movie are the motel kids who live in a world all their own.  You feel sorry for them, and you also cannot stand them as they go about their precociously uncaring antics. They are, after all, a product of their upbringing.

It is another world to many of us, but too familiar for many others.  A despairing time and place in America; all too real, right now.

It’s a fascinating look from a safe distance into a chaotic world of what is the opposite of enchantment, mostly seen from the eyes of the kids.

Directed by Sean Baker (Tangerine)

One more week left. Check it out @ 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

 

Art/Film/PSIFF – The Dancer & King of the Dancehall

Fresh from the Palm Springs International Film Festival:danceTwo more movies with two intriguingly distinctive avant-garde dance styles and the ensuing competition that goes along with them. Because I wanted something artistic and upbeat as the festival draws to a close.

The dynamic energetic movies revolving around dance could not be more different from one another.  One resembling poetry in motion and the other raw & sexually charged.  Adversity is the only thing the main characters have in common and a drive to succeed.

I knew THE DANCER would if anything be visually stunning and I was correct.

Soko in

Soko in “The Dancer”

I loved it.  It was based on the true story of Loïe Fuller (perfectly played by French singer, songwriter, musician and actress Stéphanie Sokolinski, better known by her stage name “Soko”) an American dancer who became a sensation in Europe in the early 20th century-only to be swept aside just as quickly when a greater talent emerged on the scene. Don’t you hate when that happens? Said talent was Isadora Duncan whom you may have heard of as she became quite famous (gracefully played by Lily-Rose Depp in her first screen acting debut).  The story relates how Fuller went from living a difficult life with her father in the Midwest to ending up at the prestigious Paris Opera creating a dance that was unlike anything that was seen before. She became the toast of the town and a legend who helped almost by accident to create another living legend. A hauntingly striking film.

King of the Dancehall

kingofdancehall

In Jamaica they really do dance to a different beat.  I chose this movie because of the subject but also because I spent a lot of time all over Jamaica and part of that time was spent in Kingston where the film was shot.  It was written, directed and produced by Nick Cannon (host of America’s Got Talent) who was also the main star.  In other words a Nick Cannon production.  Cannon was at the screening and answered some questions at the end.

Shot in actual Jamaican outdoor dancehall venues, Cannon plays Tarzan (they all have nick names), a Brooklyn drug dealer fresh out of prison, whose mother (Whoopi Goldberg) is ill and unable to pay her medical bills. As he contemplates ways to make money he heads to Kingston where he contacts his cousin Toasta (Busta Rhymes) in the hopes of striking up a deal to export the island’s finest ganja (aka weed) back to his hometown.

The movie is in English with English subtitles that I assure you helps with understanding the dialogue because a lot of it is in Patois.  At least it’s authentic.

Toasta introduces Tarzan to the island’s nightclub scene with its vast network of fearsome gangstas, and his wife’s virginal (and sexy gyrating dancer of a sister) Maya whose suspicious bishop father (Lou Gossett Jr.) keeps her under a watchful eye.

Maya teaches Tarzan all the necessary moves so he is able to enter a contest in hopes of winning enough money to help out his mother.

What you need to know is that superstars like Beyoncé and Rihanna have used a lot of the original Jamaican dancehall moves in their shows and music videos.  The North American audience says “that’s a great move” while the Jamaican dance audience say  “she’s doing the (such and such…they all have names) move.”  In Jamaica, the dancers are celebrities in their own right, known all over the island as dance stars.

All my time in Jamaica I never visited a dancehall such as in this film, but I did go to a nightclub and in Negril the locals & others dance to live Reggae music at night on the beach.  This is where I witnessed very similar sexy dance moves as in the film. I had never seen dancing like that before….not here in North America!

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

Culture/History: The Birth of a Nation

Last night I attended the Vancouver International Film Festival’s  (VIFF) premiere of “The Birth of a Nation.” 

birth1 Nate Parker, the films handsome lead actor who is also responsible for writing, producing and directing the cinematic drama about slave rebellion in the deep south was in attendance.  He started off the evening by introducing the movie and saying that getting the script off the ground took several years and several dollars to complete but he’s very proud of the final outcome.  As so he should be. This is an important historical film about a man who virtually got lost in the shuffle, his story being told for the very first time. It is a disturbing masterpiece!

The movie was filmed in Savannah, Georgia where a lot of the Atlantic slave trade originated.  I visited a friend living in Savannah and was charmed by the beauty of the city but not by stories about the past.  The movie struck a chord.

In short, Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher orchestrates an uprising as he witnesses countless cruelties against himself and his fellow slaves.  This strong willed man decides enough is enough when he resolves to help lead his people to freedom.

Many of the scenes are not easy to witness and as a result there were not many dry eyes in the audience.  Damn, I didn’t bring any tissues!

birth3

When I first heard about the subject matter I was not too interested especially after having seen twelve years a slave, the colour purple and many other slave related films.  While the film is not without the expected appalling brutality and violence, this true story is different from the others. It is well worth seeing. And it makes you question how far we’ve really come in light of current issues evidenced with many recent black shootings.  So maybe it has to be told time and time again….to get the point across…people are people and should be treated equally.birth2

The film will be theatrically released in the United States on October 7, 2016 by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i18z1EQCoyg

 

 

It’s ABOUT TIME

Timing is everything. I watched this movie entitled appropriately…..About Time.abouttime1

It’s been out for a few years but that’s okay because a few years is nothing when it comes to time travel.  It’s about going back in time to try and correct whatever you feel needs to be corrected.  For some reason this movie struck a chord.  Did you already guess that?

I mean who wouldn’t want to have the opportunity to right your wrongs (providing you have any) – or change the future as tempting as that sounds?

Anyway, I had a really well deserved lazy evening recently  where I scrolled through a long list of movies and this light Rom-Com is the one that appealed to me. It was exactly what the evening called for.

So if you loved “The Notebook”,  “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, “Notting Hill” and “Bridget Jones’ Diary” my guess is that you’ll love this too.

It’s about a 21 year old young man who finds out from his father that the men in his family have always had the ability to travel through time.  He can’t change history, but he can change what happens and has happened in his own life-so he decides to make his world a better place…by getting a girlfriend. Sadly, that turns out not to be as easy as you might think.

Moving from the Cornwall coast to London to train as a lawyer, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) finally meets the beautiful but insecure Mary (Rachel McAdams). They fall in love, then an unfortunate time-travel incident means he’s never met her at all. So they meet for the first time again-and again-but finally, after a lot of cunning time-traveling, he wins her heart. Tim then uses his power to create the perfect romantic proposal, to save his wedding from the worst best-man speeches, to save his best friend from professional disaster and to get his pregnant wife to the hospital in time for the birth of their daughter, despite a nasty traffic jam outside Abbey Road. But as his unusual life progresses, Tim finds out that his unique gift can’t save him from the sorrows and ups and downs that affect all families, everywhere.  There are great limits to what time travel can achieve.

So is it best to leave everything up to fate..or tamper with it if you could?  Hmmmm……

What do you think about that?

WATCH TRAILER:

Maybe I’ll watch it again….sometime

 

 

And the winner is: my Oscar 2016 Predictions

EACH YEAR it’s the same story; I plan on watching ALL of the OSCAR Nominees up for Top Picture (at the very least)…but that only happened once.  Before this year that is.

Tom Hardy - Mad Max

Tom Hardy in Mad Max Fury Road

I can’t believe I watched ALL the contenders in the top five categories.  It’s not that I had nothing else to do in my life okay, I had nothing else to do it’s just that this time I was determined and it became my mission.  I think the academy should make me an honorary member of the board if only because I sat through some movies I otherwise would not have desired to watch and that’s putting it kindly.  Even though they were all amazingly well done.  Have a little sympathy, all this watching is time consuming guys!

It was hard to keep my eyes glued to Mad Max, The Revenant, The Hateful Eight and some scenes in Creed.  It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the astounding special effects of Mad Max and the astonishing scenery surrounding The Revenant and seeing Sylvester Stallone again after all these years, it’s just that I don’t like gratuitous violence, crazy non-stop action with mostly (except for one) raggedly looking ugly men and seeing someone eat a raw liver when I can’t even stomach cooked liver (apparently Leonardo DiCaprio did this).  He deserves the Oscar for this alone.  So yes, they should make me a certified member.

The Martian (semi-comedy)

The Martian – not a comedy but Matt Damon is funny considering his circumstances

This year they were all really remarkable pictures. Mostly human interest, real life stories or stories based on factual incidences.  And they were heavy...the financial housing crash, a spy capture during the cold war, accusations of communism among the entertainment industry, a sex change, a deranged kidnapping, child molestations within the catholic church, an irish immigrant in the 50’s, a lesbian relationship in the 50’s, an inventor & technological wizard, a girl who founds a family dynasty, a secret that unfolds on a 45th wedding anniversary, a trek through cold uncharted wilderness, a mission to Mars gone wrong, *post civil-war bounty hunters and a man claiming to be sheriff  and the collapse of civilization with the craziness surrounding that.  I took a break in between to watch Train Wreck out of lightness & curiosity.

It would put me in a very awkward position to have to make choices for “best” this and that from what I’ve witnessed.  There are not many years where so many movies are this great.  I didn’t say enjoyable, I said great.  And there were a few surprises.  There was a common theme: Compelling, All Absorbing, Angry, Unbelievable and Shockingly Sad.  And beautiful!  Every single actor was just….perfect in their role.  It’s so unfair that only one of them gets to take home the golden statue when they’re all winners.

Here is WHAT picture and WHO I think deserves to win out of the BIG FIVE (and then be able to negotiate more $$$$ for their next picture).

Here Goes:

Best Picture: On all accounts “The Revenant” will probably win an Oscar (they were filming in extreme weather conditions and I hated Tom Hardy’s character so much). Cinematography should go to The Revenant, but my personal choice for best picture (and cast ensemble along with The Big Short) is  “Spotlight” because it’s just unbelievable how a small group of special reporters took chances to take on such a powerful deity as the Catholic Church and not let up.  They were passionate and successful in uncovering a time bomb.  Empowering!

Best Actor in a Leading Role:

Here’s where it gets dicey but Eddie Redmayne did a believably beautiful job in The Danish Girl.  But he’s up against Leonardo DeCaprio who’s always amazing and hasn’t won yet and has deserved to win in the past (can’t they tie for this one?).  Oh but; Eddie it is!  Powerful!

Best Actress in a Leading Role:

OMG please don’t make me choose.  I love them all.  Okay, Brie Larson for Room.  No, no, it’s going to be the Irish Girl Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn because (light shades of Bridges of Madison County) it really makes you question or consider the decisions you make in your life.  Bittersweet!

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

Just by the fact that I could have killed Tom Hardy’s character myself in The Revenant, it should go to him. But I feel Sylvester Stallone for Creed deserves it for sentimental reasons and the fact that even though watching guys beating up on other guys is not on my high list, his boxing movies are sheer entertainment. This one was more enjoyable than I imagined and well Rocky Balboa; he’s just a likeable guy.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

This one is easy (even among the other talented nominees) –  Alicia Vikander for The Danish GirlSheer Raw depth and Emotion –  Loved her!

We’ll see how I make out with the predictions on Sunday, April 28.

*I have a question for Quentin Tarantino re The Hateful Eight.  How come the stagecoach road in a movie set in the 1800’s was constantly plowed?  How was it plowed? This is important. Did anyone else notice?
oscar1

I want to start a category for best dressed at the OSCARS and also one for sheer entertainment (not acting, not directing, just an all around FUN movie).  What do you think?

Any thoughts?  I can’t wait to watch something stupid.  SISTERS & Zoolander next!

Film/Culture: Eye in the Sky – “the spys are among us”

IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A BUG, IT’S A PLANE,  it’s a drone…all super drones

palmspringsbanner all part of a new military spy thriller (and at times, a black comedy) called “Eye in the Sky” starring three of my favourites, Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman and  Aaron Paul (of breaking bad fame).  I decided that even if the movie wasn’t up to par I would still enjoy watching these superb actors in their respective roles.  But the movie was more than up to par – it was thought provoking and provocative. It is the ounce of truth.

This film, which was featured the other night as part of the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) brings to the forefront what is now part of and becoming more a part of our culture, good and bad. It’s a fictional movie based on fact.  In short it’s about a military officer (played by Mirren) in command of a drone operation to capture terrorists in Kenya.  The mission escalates from “capture” to “kill” but when a nine-year old girl enters the kill zone, the priority becomes clouded.

The movie is also a conversation starter.

Director Gavin Hood who was on hand for questions and answers at the end of the screening intended it to be that way.

It’s kind of complicated.  It really makes you think about the decisions that go into a “kill” operation on all levels.  It emphasizes the buck passing on who takes responsibility for the final decision and the consequences that arise out of that.   Frightening, sad, heroic and timely.

Google “the trolley experiment to go more in depth about this subject (which Hood spoke about) to find out about the ethical and philosophical values of “making a big decision”.  A “what would you do?” in that situation.  Interesting when the tables are turned….sometimes you just don’t know what you are capable of.  I find it fascinating and scary.

The drone part is something we’ll have to get used to.  You can now be the literal “fly on the wall.” It made me want a personal one of my own (to use only when necessary).  They’re sold online but the problem is the authenticity.  I would want one that resembles a real fly.  Just kidding (sort of).

The movie is due out in theatres in March.

WATCH the trailer: 

Hood co-wrote and directed a movie I loved and which has resonated with me since having seen it called “Tsotsie” – about a young small-time street thug from South Africa during the turbulent years before and after the fall of apartheid.  Things turn around when he steals a car and finds a baby in the back seat.  The film won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006.  It was an outstanding film.  One I highly recommend watching.

Trailer for “Tsotsi”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0468565/?ref_=nm_ov_bio_lk3

 

 

ICON – the UNIQUE Lives of Shirley MacLaine

Anyone familiar with bestselling author and Academy Award winning actress Shirley MacLaine knows that she’s lived a journey of many lifetimes.ULE Booklet 2014 (Calgary Pg 7)

On May 26th, Shirley MacLaine will be gracing the stage of the Vancouver Orpheum not to sing, dance, act or read an excerpt from one of her many intriguing books – but to share in stories about her own life experiences with trademark wit and candour to a captivated audience as part of the intimate “unique lives” series. 

I’ll be one of those people engrossed in hearing whatever she has to say.  Because let’s face it, even if you’re not a fan you cannot deny that it has been a life (including past lives) well lived. 

With credits too numerous to mention on a blog, let’s take a little peek into the world of this living legend:

The daughter of a drama teacher, she started out as a dancer.  She will take you down memory lane with movie and television clips from her illustrious career starting in 1955 with her first movie, Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Trouble with Harry“.

With a film career too long to mention – you’ll see clips from “Irma la Douce“, “Sweet Charity“, “Two Mules for Sister Sara“, and most recently, “Glee” and “Downton Abbey“. Not only will you hear about her award-winning film and stage career, but also her years with the “Rat-Pack“, her journey on the Camino, and her greatest passion: the spirit, mind and body.

Members of the audience will get a chance to ask Shirley questions during a question and answer session.

Five of my personal favourite films from her extraordinary career:

The Turning Point (1977), she stars as a former dancer who gave up her career to have a family. Her daughter follows in her footsteps, and MacLaine’s character is forced to confront her old dance rival (Anne Bancroft).

In 1983, MacLaine finally claimed her Oscar statue for Terms of Endearment. She plays Aurora Greenway, a woman with a troubled relationship with her daughter, in the film. Debra Winger stars as her daughter and Jack Nicholson as her love interest in this popular tearjerker. In her acceptance speech at the Academy Awards, MacLaine said “I have wondered for 26 years what this would feel like,” according to the Hollywood ReporterVanity Fair also notes that she added “I deserve this.”

Steel Magnolias with Olympia Dukakis, Sally Field, Dolly Parton and Julia Roberts. The quip that stands out: “I’m not as sweet as I used to be.” Set in Louisiana, she plays Ouiser Boudreaux, a woman who through years of turmoil and heartbreak, becomes more cynical, hardened and wiseass. But you can’t help but love her. She embodies wisdom, cynicism, sarcasm, and snarky humor…all mixed into one fabulous southern lady…how can you ask for more.

She tackled the role of one of her real-life contemporaries. In Postcards from the Edge, based on Carrie Fisher’s memoir, MacLaine plays actress Debbie Reynolds. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Reynolds gave MacLaine at least one critique of her performance. “She didn’t think I should have put vodka in the smoothie,” MacLaine said.

In 1960, MacLaine delivered one of her best performances in The Apartment. She co-starred with Jack Lemmon in this Billy Wilder classic, playing a young elevator operator named Fran Kubelik who has an affair with the company’s big boss, but later falls for Lemmon’s character.

ULE Booklet 2014 (Calgary Pg 7) So there you have it – I’ll be all over that!

Tickets: http://uniquelives.com/vancouver

 

Food – the hundred foot journey

I would like to make you an omelette.  Just take one bite and tell me what you think.  A line from the movie “the hundred foot journey.”

taken from facebook

taken from facebook

Oh such joy combining two of my favourite things….movies and food.  If you love movies and you love food then you’ll love this film.  Not since Chocolat (in fact it is the same director) has a movie felt so good. You know it has to be special when it stars Helen Mirren and was produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey for Dreamworks.

Without giving too much away if you haven’t already seen it, it involves travel (from an exotic but over populated country to a charming village), food (you might want to have dinner beforehand), passion, hard work, competition, equality, loss, dreams and triumph.  A lesson in life choices, making the most of circumstance and taking chances.  A good lesson.  This is not a critics opinion, it’s my opinion.  I give it two thumbs up but if I had three thumbs I’d give it three!

Trailerhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEO1TWeM5JU

Available now on DVD

Oh..I suppose I’ll have a recipe next week.