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?

 

 

Creator Talk: Calling the Shots

Meet the Showstoppers:  FIVE FABULOUS FEMALES in charge.

YEAH LADIES

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

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

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

Session Participants

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

“Jojo Rabbit” & “Who You Think I Am”

Fantasy never goes out of Fashion.  Obsession is Optional.

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

Who You Think I Am (CELLE QUE VOUS CROYEZ)

juliette binoche in “who you think I am”

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

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

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

Jojo Rabbit 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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: