I have added a Search Window on the Sidebar (=========> ) to allow for previous Reviews to be found. It took a while to figure out how to add this feature which to me is necessary for anyone looking to see what any thoughts have been for something that they wish to watch. You will note that there are multiple entries for many movies.
I hope this makes the reviews more accessible and available for those visiting. Happy movie watching!
Thanks for joining me! For many years I have been sharing movie reviews with my good friend Alison. What started out as Monday water cooler discussions on what films we saw (we seemed to see movies often) then turned into emails. She moved from her job. I moved from mine, but we still kept in contact.
The reviews have been been shared with others over time, but the beginnings remain the same. When I review, the email was addressed to Alison, and then others were added.
So here I am. After much thought, the idea of sharing the movie reviews over time has finally taken shape.
I must early on make a shout out to the late, great, Pulitzer prize winning reviewer Roger Ebert, from the Chicago Sun Times. I depended on Roger and his reviews, and his TV show At The Movies with Gene Siskel. Now I didn’t always agree with Roger and his reviews, but I would read and enjoy how he viewed these films. It is not unusual for me to refer to him, or wonder what he would think about a particular film.
I am adding present reviews as some historical reviews as I find them. You will also see some more lengthy discussions about films as well (like discussions about Alien Covenant or Star Wars The Last Jedi).
These of course are all one man’s opinion. Nothing more, and nothing less. If it can save you from spending $13.99 on the latest film in the theatre, by avoiding a bad film (in my opinion) then great! If it opens up a level of discourse on a film and a debate – I have always enjoyed debating films (and other things).
Maggie Gyllenhaal at TIFF premiere of The Kindergarten Teacher
Oscar nominations were just announced this past week on Tuesday. We learned that there are ten nominees for Best Picture. I, after this week, have seen all the nominees except for Women Talking. There were some notable stubs, as there always are for these awards. James Cameron was not nominated for Best Director. Cameron’s films use cutting edge technology and Avatar in particular was visually stunning. His ability to get these images on screen is quite remarkable. Tom Cruise was not nominated for Top Gun Maverick. Viola Davis was not nominated for Best Actress in Woman King. Everything Everywhere All At Once was nominated for the most awards with 11, and is reviewed by me below. The awards will be on March 12th!
Troll: This was released last year on Netflix. It is a Norwegian/European King Kong really if I had to do a comparison. It was actually decently done and I didn’t hate it. I watched in the original Norwegian with English subtitles. At it’s core, it is a father and daughter story with the surrounding issue of fairy tales and dealing with the unknown. It begins with a father and a young daughter, named Nora, looking at a mountain in Norway. The father implores the daughter that she “must believe” before she can see the images of the trolls in the mountain face. Nora grows and becomes a paleantologist searching for dinosaurs in the Norwegian swamp land, low country. There has been an incident at a nearby mine where they want to put a train, and they need some expert help with what has occurred. The Prime Minister requests someone with Nora’s skills.
Nora is no nonsense and provides straightforward, if unbelievable insight into the situation unfolding. Played by Ine Marie Wilmann she is effective. Part of the research into dealing with the phenomenon is for Nora to go back to her father, who is regarded as mentally challenged with his obsession with fantasy and fairy tales. They are estranged. But he explains more and they venture off together with the military and PM’s office to better understand what is taking place. Each of the actors is effective and believable in their roles. None are mainstream Hollywood, at least North American. Ultimately we see this massive troll, who is a mix between a Lord of the Rings Ent, covered in moss and rock and King Kong with a tail or Godzilla if you will. The troll seems to just get angrier at conventional weapons and the team looks then to the fairy tales about the trolls. The troll seems to be moving towards Oslo, the Capital, and the humans need to figure out what to do. The plot continues. Is this believable? Of course not. But it is escapism with a message. I enjoyed this and if you are wondering what you can watch that isn’t overly violent, and won’t tax your mental capacity too much, you can do worse than looking into this.
Everything Everywhere All At Once: If you want to tax yourself with looking to unravel a movie and its plot, look no further than this Michelle Yeoh, most Oscar nominated film of the year. Where to start? Yeoh plays a married middle aged woman, with a teenage daughter and an older father running a laundromat which is being audited by the IRS. It’s not going so well with the wonderful Jamie Lee Curtis (almost unrecognizable) playing the IRS agent.
What starts as a pretty standard story with the family and its struggles amongst its members, turns into more of an adventure on different existential plains quickly. Not too unsurprisingly, we learn that frumpy, sad, downtrodden Yeoh, is leading a variety of different lives in these different plains that she gets to morph into from time to time. She wears a headset which seems to allow her this power to flip from one to the other, while still continuing in her drab current existence. She is married to Waymond, played by Ke Huy Quan, which older viewers will be interested to hear was the annoying young Asian boy in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Yea, THAT guy!!
Without going too much further into the plot, because to explain it is to suggest that I fully understand it, it contines to tell the story of Yeoh’s character and how she is going to address her situation. I don’t fully understand all of it, and the sets that were brought forward to the viewer. What I will say that it is a very complex way of showing that this woman has issues with her family; all of them. From daughter, to husband, to father, to her IRS auditor, she has challenges with each of them. Some are funny. Some are fun. Some are more touching and others just strange (like a world consisting of people with fingers that are long floppy weiners! (Yea, I KNOW!). What layers get added on to the otherwise bland existence in the present plain include martial arts for which Yeoh has always been known and excellent, but also strange and bizarre. It all adds up to a visually stunning piece with different sets/ plains which are a wonder to someone’s imagination. I think that the acting nominations given here to all principal members of this cast are completely deserved. They each need to embody someone very different than their main character, while still remaining recognizable. They do it believably and with all the campy fun attached to it. Is this the Best Picture? Not sure. It is escapism with a message, certainly a different message than Troll above. I do think that the average movie goer, or my Mom trying to watch at home, wouldn’t have the patience for it. It demands quite a bit from the audience, and many simply don’t want to work that hard for it. We will see, as the Academy can like films like this with examples like Birdman, or The Artist.
Bardo False Chronicle and A Handful of Truths: This was another Best Picture nominee that I noted was already on Netflix. It certainly did not get a lot of fanfare in being listed there. After seeing this and Everything Everywhere, I am now down to only one movie for Best Picture that I haven’t seen which is Women Talking.
Speaking about Birdman, this movie is also from the same Director, Alejandro González Iñárritu. Set in Mexico, the Mexican director has a story that delves more deeply into the history of Mexico and its people, it’s relationship to the US, all through the story of this well-known filmmaker and his family. Daniel Gimenez Cacho, unknown to me, plays Silverio Gacho. He is a Mexican national, who makes films and lives in both Mexico and LA in the US. He has a wife and kids. He is about to get an award for his more recent film. Through all of the cast members we see and explore his experiences with being a Mexican man, who desired to leave Mexico, and who creates some satire/scathing commentary about his homeland. Some of his friends resent him for it. His family finds him focused too much on his work and not with the people who should matter most to him.
I have to admit that much like Everything Everywhere, I didn’t completely follow this plotline. It manages to jump all over the place. It is visually stunning. Some of the set design and production design is just incredible. The time and effort that would have gone in to set up these shots would have been remarkable as seen below.
What I do know is that I don’t know a lot of Mexican history. There is a sequence with a discussion with the explorer Cortez which is remarkable. Remarkable because it speaks to a country that seems to shun the person who “discovered” it, unlike Columbus in the US. Overall this is about this man’s life but deals with dreams and death and being displaced along with who can really claim to be a “native” of anywhere? What is a National? There are some confusing scenes, which seem out of place. There are dream sequences that are dropped in with different effectiveness for me. The final act was quite surprising and amazing to me. I liked this, and I say that hesitantly because I am not sure that I fully understood it. It’s hard to recommend and like what you don’t fully understand. But movies are there to entertain, but also to inform and shed light on things that the audience may not be aware. I think that this movie can do all of those things. Once again, like Everything Everywhere it demands much on its audience. It is more serious and less campy fun, but that doesn’t take away from it. Well worth watching and seeing how it can do for the Oscars.
One Pale Blue Eye: Netflix just dropped this movie in the past week or so, starring Christian Bale, who I quite like from a number of his past roles. As an aside about Bale, he seems to be getting the Marbles-in-the-Mouth affliction that has also infected Jeff Bridges long ago. Seems that their tongues are too big for their mouths. Bale has had this growing for a number of years. It can be distracting. But I digress. This movie also has an almost unrecognizable Robert Duvall and the quality of Gillian Anderson.
Set in early 1800s in the American colonies it focuses on a military academy for boys. The Academy’s second-in-command Colonel has ridden out to meet up with the Bale character, a widowed detective living alone after his daughter has left recently. He is enlisted to investigate a cadet who was found hanged on the nearby grounds. This invitation wasn’t an option, but a command. Upon arrival Bale learns that the hanged cadet also had his heart removed in a surgical manner. The plot thickens. It seems to be more of a ritualistic killing. Bale and the Colonel conduct examinations for the young deceased cadet. Enlisted to help is a young, penguin-like looking cadet named Edgar Allan Poe (picture above). Together he and Bale start putting together the clues and arrive at a motive. Then another killing takes place. Things continue at a slow pace, and ultimately there is a conclusion for which I was neither surprised nor interested.
The trouble with this is that there is a terrible waste of talent. It is a very good cast. But the story that they have to work with is weak, and has been done before. Why, for example, does the experienced detective always saddled with a vice (here drink) that is mentioned but is later ignored throughout. Why is Edgar Allan Poe involved in this at all? Why him, instead of any other random cadet? Do we get any insight into this awkward young man, who is an outcast but still a talent with words, notably poetry. In some way it takes away some of the slow building tension that the real Poe lived to be 40 years old. Finally do they manage to get the worst performance of Gillian Anderson’s professional life? I really like Anderson, and have felt that she was the real talent in X-Files. She has gone on to to do some really great work. Notably last season of the Crown she played Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher brilliant, finding sympathy for a complex woman with a hard exterior. Here, oh what a mess with her tyrade at the dinner table which adds little to her character. Add this movie to yet another made during COVID that doesn’t intrigue nor really entertain.
Nope: Jordan Peele’s Nope is a difficult film to pin down. I came into it from just seeing the movie poster and marketing that this was an alien invasion movie. From the perspective it shares some similarities with 2002’s Signs, with Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix (“swing away Merrill”), it definitely is! But it’s also quite different. On a secluded California horse farm is OJ and and his sister Emerald, who recently lost their father in a bizarre accident while he was tending to a horse. The family rents the horses to Hollywood productions. A series of strange events occur which are also reminiscent of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with power going in and out, including battery operated cellphones. Lights flash, things get dark and quiet and there is a presence felt. In the distance at times they think they see a ship of some sort. Looking to investigate further, they go to the local Fry’s Electronic Store (Canadians think Best Buy) to set up some cameras to try and film these strange events. They see this as a key to fame and fortune to finally accurately document the existence of UFOs and extra-terrestrials. The young cashier is interested in their story and gets more involved than you might expect.
Together these three try to explore this strange phenomenon. There are some predictable attempts to try and shock while creating tension. It isn’t a scary movie. Nor is it a gross out, which many of these movies can be these days. It has some genuinely funny momentsin which principally OJ voices what everyone in the audience is thinking. At the same time he also acts in ways that I can’t imagine that anyone would where in a barn he takes out his phone for picture rather than run like crazy. Sister played by Keke Palmer is so very annoying in virtually every scene. Maybe that was the point, but her constant distraction takes away from the overall enjoyment. I will say that I think that there are some stunning visuals involved. One which takes place in the neighbouring amusement park provides a fascinating perspective. It informs and shocks at the same time. There are some practical realities which I won’t delve into further because it would be more of a spoiler than is merited. But it’s something that when I pondered it after viewing, it didn’t make a whole helluva sense in dealing with the vastness and vacuum of space. Of all the Jordan Peele movies, I have to admit to liking Black Klansman the most. His Get Out, also starring Daniel Kaluuya, I just didn’t quite understand all the hype that was sent its way. Kaluuya is a presence and has done some very good roles. It had some moments, but it wasn’t what I was expecting and the sci fi aspects were average overall.
George and Tammy: This series on Showtime stars the compelling Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon as the country music icons. It is six episodes long and details the turbulent relationship between the main characters, two people who fate brought together but they just couldn’t overcome the challenges that their careers and their vices brought to them. Jones was a living tornado who reeked trouble everywhere he went. His battles with drugs and alcohol were legendary along with his violent temper. He was an angry drunk. He lashed out, and the narcissist that he was, thought that everything revolved around him. It seemed that the press and those around him, even when he tried to get sober, wanted to see that drunk George and see just what he would do. How much more outrageous he could be! Sad that there weren’t some friends or handlers who could try and steer him away from those temptations. He suffered as a result.
I tried to like this. At every turn it seemed the main characters were making poor choices. George especially was just such an unlikeable man, who despite his obvious love for Tammy Wynette, he just couldn’t imagine doing something for her, or treating her as she deserved. He would profess his love, but then the demons of addiction would settle in and possess him.
This is yet another tale of how fame and fortune cannot make up for the hurt and loss from a person’s life. It can mask it, and one from the outside can think the person “has everything” but in truth they are missing peace and peace of mind. It seems here, like with many of these performers, that the stage was their refuge with everyday life being the daunting challenge. I think that both Chastain and Shannon sang their own songs here, but they aren’t George Jones nor Tammy Wynette. However much they tried. So I cannot recommend this, but certainly if you are fan of country music and wanted to see a little bit about these two interacted, I did learn a few things. Watching this and then something like the Shania Twain documentary, you see how the modern country scene is very different than it was then.
This week’s post was delayed since I was on a plan returning from BC. So worth it!
Willow: I had noted through commercials that Disney+ was streaming a new series called Willow. A sequel to the original film from Lucas Film back in 1988, directed by Ron Howard.
It followed Return of the Jedi but preceded Lord of the Rings (not a Lucas project but rather Peter Jackson) which for me is the closest that it resembles. Why? It involves a journey with the leader who is vertically challenged. I am hard pressed to think of another movie in which so many little people are used. Lucas himself used many as Ewoks in Star Wars. The Wizard of Oz way back in the day with the Munchkins. But the story also borrows from the New Testament with Herod and Jesus. There is a female baby born that was foretold in ancient stories to replace the existing Queen. The Queen orders all newborn female children to be killed. A determined servant escapes the city and sets the child upon a river to the unknown. Hearing the news of the escape, the Queen sends her daughter to fulfill her wishes, she is played Joanne Whaley. Our hero Willow (played both times by Warwick Davis) is the father of two young children himself with wife in the story, and his children find the babe in the river and then he takes a reluctant liking to the infant and is put in charge by a town council with returning her to safety.
He is joined by a small band of his fellow villagers. Along the way they run into a man encased in a cage hung from a tree. Played by Val Kilmer, he is a scoundrel seemingly a sword for hire. Of note this is the movie that Kilmer meets Joanne Whaley and they later marry in real life.
My memories of this movie were better than the second viewing. Once again it seems that George Lucas is challenged with writing any type of believable romantic aspect in a story. It was Lucas’ story, but he didn’t write the screenplay. It is evident on any viewing where that the story falls down on this front. Elsewhere Lucas and Howard have more success for the love of the town which is very similar to the Shire. A couple of the challenges for me include: the Queen who is the picture of evil, and yet takes so long to complete her ultimate task that she should be a Bond villain. Or at least Dr Evil in shockingly allowing a small band to try and infiltrate what would seem to be an impregnable castle. Also, the trolls are silly with a crude early use of CGI that was not effective. Then the monster in castle near the end also does not hold up well to today’s technology unlike Return of the Jedi with the Rancor in Jabba’s palace which was very similar in use of technology. George Lucas did look to branch out in new ways post Star Wars with this and movies like Labryinth but the money of Star Wars just was too tempting it would seem and thus began the prequels totally financed by Lucas. Of course he was involved with a little project too called Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark that had some modest success itself!! Having seen this once again I don’t feel the need to watch the series. I think Disney+ has shown itself to have less than a stellar record in creating series based upon earlier material.
The Menu: As I thought about watching this, I was thinking that this could be a good companion piece to Glass Onion as a who-dunnit, murder mystery. I knew very little about, but had seen a couple of the commercials so it was not much to go on. The premise is simple enough, a world reknowned chef, played by Ralph Fiennes, invites an exclusive number of guest to his remote island restuarant that is extremely expensive. Once at the restaurant, he and his staff prepare, serve and provide commentary on the course that the guests are about to eat. Much like Glass Onion, you don’t know the make up and background of those that were invited. We are initially introduced to Tyler, played by Nicholas Hoult and his date Margot, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. She, much like Emma Stone, has an odd face where it appears as though her eyes are far too far apart.
We learn as they rush to get to the boat and then check in, that Margot was not an invited guest. She was a reaplcement guest for Tyler. Tyler is enamoured with Chef Slovik, being at the pinnacle of the culinary game which he reveres. He has watched all the shows about cooking like Chef’s Table and knows all the insider lingo. The story progresses and introduces us to more of the guests, including a celebrity with his date, three Wall Street-like dudes and an older couple. Seems husband might actually know Margot. The plot thickens.
For me, at the conclusion I thought to myself, “is this it?” As a satire/dark comedy it is over the top, as I suppose that it needs to be. The social commentary about today, with the general fixation on these chefs, like Gordon Ramsey or Guy Fieri, who have turned their work into celebrity and restaurants is interesting. Also is the idea that every one of us can become reviewers of their craft, their art, which requires more than just the ability to amass a number of well known ingrediants. In many ways, what I do here is the same thing; I can’t make a movie, but I have eyes and I can make commentary on the craft of a director and the team that put images on celluloid and show it to the public. My take on food is that I don’t need to eat art. I would prefer to feel satisfied and enjoy what I taste. I want to leave a restaurant feeling satisfied, and not needing to fill myself up with a burger when it’s done. Not everyone shares in my attitude clearly. Many of those types, including the food critic, is explored in more detail. Each course gets to be a little more over the top. Of course it becomes ridiculous like satire can become. This is where it departs too from Glass Onion. A statement is made about the evening and how it will unfold which surprises the guests, as it rightfully should. In many ways it reminds me of my reaction in Banshees of Inisherin with Colm’s response in dealing with Padraic’s actions. Banshees is also set on an island, just like Glass Onion. In the end, I thought that it was ridiculous. Fiennes plays creepy, reserved with an inner turmoil/anger very well. He has his own agenda, but the end result isn’t satisfying for me.
Triangle of Sadness: For most viewers, the only recognizable star in this movie is Woody Harrelson. This is an interesting character study of a relationship, and particularly the man in the relationship (Carl, played by Harris Dickinson) along with a more general exploration about the nature of mankind. Separated into chapters, in the same way as The Menu is, there are two young pretty people, we should say that as they are both models, and there is an in depth discussion about the picking up of the cheque from a restaurant. Carl’s girlfriend is named Yaya apparently makes more money than Carl does but simply says a distracted “thanks” as she ignores the fact that the bill arrives to the table. In the conclusion of the chat, Carl says that he wants to avoid becoming stereotypical roles in a relationship and wants to be “partners and best friends”.
Carl and Yaya head onto a Yacht, with numerous other passengers. They are “influencers” and were offered this cruise for free in return for social media exposure. They interact with other passengers. They are part of a privileged group on board, much in the same way as the guests in The Menu. There are guests and there are staff who are meant to “do whatever the guests” would like them to do. The staff of course are looking for tips in exchange for their devoted services. Class is definitely an aspect of the cruise. The Captain is played by Woody Harrelson, and he isn’t exactly the typical Captain. He is generally drunk, and is difficult to raise from his room by the staff. There is a Captain’s dinner, although it is delayed because one of the passengers has decided that the staff each deserve to have a swim in the ocean. And what the passengers want, the staff complies, no matter the disruption to the scheduled events for everyone.
There are some genuinely funny moments in this movie. Some might be unintentional, but I laughed anyway. Likely my warped sense of humour but suffice it to say that the cruise ends in a fashion that is quite unexpected. The Captain has drunkenly debated socialist/communist dogma contrary to capitalism. The Captain is a socialist, believing that the rich should pay their fair share of taxes while the passenger is a rich man who has built himself up from literally selling shit/manure. The third act sees the dynamic of the group turned upside down. The existing class structure is changed based upon the skills that each individual brings to the group. No longer is wealth the measuring stick for power and decision making. This circles back to the earlier discussion with Carl and Yaya who are now adjusting to the updated hierarchy in the group. The role reversal is fun to see as it plays itself out. Carl and Yaya don’t exactly support one another in the equal partnership that Carl was earlier on contemplating. Carl’s actions belie his views and he speaks out of two sides of his face.
I liked this movie. I laughed, it made me think, and there were some situations that were unexpected. Unlike The Menu which didn’t resonate with me as well, I was able to be entertained with the observations of mankind, but also about gender roles. How in a group where skills dictate your worth, the person who has those skills can take advantage of those that are beneficiaries of the services. When that updated hierarchy is challenged in some way, people act in ways that you as the viewer, can sadly anticipate. Needless to say, however much even those who profess to be looking out for the interests of all collectively, they can still be quite selfish in protecting their own particular station in the class system. Even though there are similarities between these two movies this week, and I do think that they are good companion pieces, I would recommend Triangle of Sadness before The Menu.
The Whale: I had seen the coverage from one of the film festivals where Brendan Fraser in attendance at the cinema was given a rousing 10+ minute standing ovation for his performance in this stage play turned into a film. I was intrigued by this film directed by Darren Aronofsky. It has a simple setting and only a few characters which explain the treatment on the live stage. This is not an uplifting film, but far more down telling the tale of this middle aged man who is slowly but surely ending his life one bite at a time. All the characters involved in some have an element of self-loathing, shame and anger at the world. They aren’t a collective group that you would want to share holiday time.
Charlie is an online university English Literature professor. He appreciates the written word and he can write and teach effective essay writing. For his students, he tells them that his computer camera isn’t working and so while he can see them, they cannot see him. He is ashamed of himself and what he has become. He lives alone. Beyond delivery people, his only visitor is a nurse with her own backstory. A young man drops in by chance for a visit from “the church”. This young man also has his own story. Things happen. It turns out that Charlie was once married and that he has a daughter. He would like to try and reconnect with her. Daughter and Mom each have their own issues to address.
For me, none of the characters are very likeable. Each has their own challenges in the way that they have dealt with their circumstances. The principal focus of course being Charlie, and he continues to be his own worst enemy. From a practical standpoint, this is yet another example of a story that would be very different if it took place in any other country than the US. You see, Charlie has no health insurance, and he cannot afford to have crippling doctor bills. Much like Breaking Bad, and many other such situations if he lived in Canada, for example, he would have universal health care. He wouldn’t have to choose between getting treatment and leaving some financial assistance behind for his family. He would simply go to the hospital, see a doctor and get treated. Our system isn’t perfect, and this isn’t the forum to talk about it at length, but the Western World (save the US) long ago realized that health care is a right.
Beyond this, Charlie is making poor choices about eating and his health, but that is the point. He is smart enough to know better. He sees what is happening to him. He has made choices in life, and has suffered the inevitable consequences that we all do. He chooses to deal with it in a manner that many likely would not. Seeing him stuff unhealthy meal after unhealthy meal into his face is disconcerting. He feels disgusting on the inside, so he wants his outside to match it. His performance is very good, and will garner acting nominations with the Oscar seemingly a given. It is a welcome comeback for the Canadian actor, who has gone from being a heartthrob leading man with The Mummy and George of the Jungle to care less about his appearance. James Cordon apparently auditioned for the part of Charlie, and I will say that Fraser is I think a better choice for the character. For all his girth, Fraser has these sympathetic blue eyes that shown his inner turmoil. In the end, the daughter Ellie who likely already needed a good deal of therapy will likely need more. If you want to be uplifted and feel better when you leave a theatre, then this movie isn’t for you. If you want to see a really good performance, with some insight into other people and the pain that they have, then this is a good choice. You don’t need to see this on the big screen.
Somebody Feed Phil: Netflix has this TV series on created by Phil Rosenthal who worked on the show Everyone Loves Raymond, which I did not watch. The premise of this show is for Phil to travel the world and eat really cool local food. Phil is a foodie and clearly enjoys eating. He also likes sharing his food with his crew. I like that. Much like Stanley Tucci, Phil is doing a travel log as well as a food recommendation episode. He doesn’t limit himself to Italy, however, and I have watched the episodes on Lisbon, Madrid, Nashville and Montreal. I think the Lisbon episode was excellent showing the city, a city that I play to see later this year and this gave me some really good ideas on where to stop.
Phil sits at a restaurant with tables on a jetty in Lisbon. Amazing!
Phil enthusiastically eats five different types of shrimp at a different eatery. The show gives one a great sense of the place while introducing the food that is known in that area. In some ways it is like Rick Steves but without the historical background, see the markets, bakeries and restaurants. I heartily recommend this for anyone interested in food and/or travel. Phil certainly will have visited somewhere that will pique your interest, and your appetite.
The Fabelmans: This really should be called The Spielbergs, because it is more or less the autobiography of a young Steven Spielberg with his family as they move around the country before the parents divorce. Directed and produced by Spielberg, this was released at TIFF back in September. It is a very personal story, from the eyes of a young man as he comes of age as a young Jewish man surrounded by Christians in various places including Phoenix and California. Dad (played by Paul Dano) is an engineer of note who has cutting edges about computers and networks. His artistic wife (played by Michelle Williams) was a very talented concert pianist, but gave that up when her husband and children came along. Young Steven, named Sammy Fabelman (played by Gabriel Labelle) from a very young age was interested in movies and getting images onto film. In the movie one of the earliest scenes has him watching a train wreck. He then looks to duplicate it at home, which his Mom recognizes and Dad was oblivious.
Like any family, there are challenges, but Sammy’s filming allows him a greater eye in viewing the comings and goings of his family. As he edits a short film to cheer up his Mom, he sees something that was unexpected. It changes the family dynamic. One of the themes in the movie is the power of film, and the editing of the film. A film made later at the high school as a Senior Day Off at the beach in California is editted such that some fellow students are made uncomfortable. The short, nerdy, filmmaker gets to wield a great of power in that position. The film follows the family, their moves as the children go through their formative years.
I have to admit that I was never a big fan of Michelle Williams, from the days of Dawson’s Creek with Katie Holmes to her take on Marilyn Monroe and as various long suffering housewives, like Brokeback Mountain. I begrudgingly admit that I think that she did an admirable portrayal of the wife who we see in her vulnerabilties while she puts a brave face in front of her family at the same time sacrificing much of who she is. As a child, one doesn’t see that in a parent. They’re not people, that is your MOM and DAD! As we age, they are people who have their own thoughts, dreams, hope and ambitions. They’re not always coming true. For Mom in the movie, she is deeply distressed in the move to California. We learn more details, as Sammy struggles himself in this new high school. I liked this more than I thought that I would. It was engaging. I did think that Judd Hirsch who plays an Uncle was really good, adressing those who are so fixated in their art that the rest of their life can suffer. it seems that this stuck with Spielberg and seems to be very true for him and his life. I also think that Seth Rogan was effective as a family friend, who seems to be everywhere where the family goes. This has been nominated for a Best Picture Golden Globe. It won the People Choice Prize at TIFF, which usually guarantees at least an Oscar nomination and often a win. So expect to see more awards for Mr Spielberg who has taken his love for movies to reshape the Hollywood landscape. From here you get to see, with a wink every now and then, the origins of this ambitious career which Spielberg has taken to heights that even he could never have dreamed! Well worth seeing.
RRR: I have heard some bizz about this movie on some Best Of lists, and it was on Netflix. I haven’t ever watched East Indian/Hindi movies which were very long musicals, usually involving a love story with an extravagant wedding. But the buzz was such that I wanted to check it out. It didn’t disappoint.
I won’t delve deep into the plot other than to highlight that the story generally involves the oppressive British rules, with accompanying ruling class treating the native Indian people horribly. A young girl is taken by a nasty British baroness, being bought for a token from her family, and the rest of the movie focuses on getting her back into her small village.
There are some stunning scenes, with a dance sequence is a marvel to get on film, no matter how unbelievable some of the visuals, especially involving animals. The animals are of course all CGI, but it shows you just how far the technology has come, and how it can be utilized. The movie is long. The British are as offensive as you could expect them to be. Some of the scenes are over the top in how much punishment an individual can take, but think of it like WWE wrestling with plenty of jumps and punches and very little bruising. There are plenty of religious imagery included too. Rather than try to explain it all, it’s best to view fresh and just to experience. This is dubbed into English, which for such an action filled movie is helpful so you don’t miss the action for reading the dialog.
With the holiday season here, and some time off, I hope to see The Whale, with Brendan Fraser and also the 3 hour, 10 min Babylon. Why can’t they make a two hour movie anymore?! Hell, Avatar had 30 full mins of previews and commercials before the 3:10 screening which makes for a long time to have your ass go numb.
Avatar: The Way of Water: I went out to see at the IMAX 3D theatre on Friday the $350M James Cameron sequel to his ground breaking sci fi story, thirteen years in the making. Apparently the word is that this movie must make $2B before in breaks even. Recognizing that my ticket in Imax was about $25, this means that filling theatres around the globe should make this easier to attain, than what that scary number would mean before this time. It seems James Cameron is ALWAYS breaking expense records when he makes his films, as Titanic was also a record cost of $200M back in 1997. It made $3.4B from the theatre and DVD sales. The real question everyone wants to know, and my primary question going in was “Did it suck?” Followed by “is it worth the money?” In short, it didn’t suck and it was worth the money to see it in the biggest screen I could find.
I had been very careful to avoid all trailers and any preview information before seeing this. So I went in cold with only me memories of the original as a starting point. I hadn’t even recently re-watched the original in preparation so some of my memories had faded a bit. So let’s talk about the Pros and Cons of this epic.
The Pros: This movie is visually stunning from beginning to end. Pandora is a character in the film. The scenes throughout take the viewer to a new world, with all new characters accompanied by creatures that however fictional still seem very much part of this place. I give full credit too all the artists who create the characters large and small. This from both the forest to the ocean.
Then there are the people who inhabit these different worlds. Pandora believes in Darwinian adapting to one’s surrounding environment and the Sea-People are very different than the Forest-People. There is an underlying physiology that is the same but they are different.
The movie is escapism in its purist form. For 3 hours and 10 mins (yes!) it whisks you away to another world which can capitivate your imagination. It sticks with you as well. After a busy weekend I am still thinking through many aspects of it, that I don’t think is fully attributable to me looking to write about it. It likely needs a second viewing for me to have me catch more of the subtleties that it brings. Cameron has attention to detail if nothing else. So I think it is a success in hopefully attracting people back to the theatre through a busy holiday season where the lulls can be for the family to experience something together.
The Cons: For all the stunning visuals, the story isn’t anywhere near as strong as one would hope. In any science fiction/fantasy film, of course one has to check reality at the door. But beyond that, there are many aspects of the storyline that don’t make a lot of sense.
Alison had asked me to get back to her about how a human, who merges into being a Navee can father a child, let alone multiple children. A good question. Presumably sperm is sperm to put it simply, and the children are not pure Navee in that they have more fingers on their hands. It remains a good question, as the whole experiment if you think through it could go horribly wrong, from the size discrepancy alone.
The villain for me is a convoluted storyline that wasn’t necessary. It didn’t have to go that way, because in truth in the first Avatar humans ARE the villain, and we have plenty of those to go around! Even as the movie progresses (and if you choose to buy into this villain) what happens later didn’t make a lot of sense either. I will leave it at that without over-sharing too much about the plot.
The transition from the forest world to the sea is a clunky one for me. I can understand of course looking to protect one’s family. However as things unfolded, it actually delayed the inevitable, which Jake should have clearly seen and it becomes just an excuse to bring in this whole different world with challenges that Swiss Family Robinson had to take on and then some! I am not so clear too how in a manner of weeks/months that skills which have been acquired over generations can be so quickly learned. I don’t care how long I have to practise, I won’t be holding my breath while holding onto a sea creature for the length of time required (or be able to equalize my ears during that time!). But nevermind.
I struggle with the overall cost in equipment, lives and money in order for the human hoard to be seeking out one guy. One could argue I suppose that the American effort to take down Osama Bin Laden was comparable, and in many ways Jake Sully is a terrorist leader for the humans but still! Further, I am not convinced about the need to address fatherhood throughout this film, and notably with the Grace character which was a real stretch for me. Apparently beyond Dory in Finding Nemo we learn that there are other characters than can speak whale! Who knew? But it is a skillset that on first blush shouldn’t be apparent, nor needed. I see the parallels throughout to previous human history, but I am not also clear why the human hoard should be re-directing their efforts away from the mining of the Unobtainium (cool name!) into something far more offensive. So all in all there are plenty of laughable “Yea Right” moments to remind you that this is a Hollywood production.
I didn’t feel the length of the movie and wasn’t shifting in my seat. I will note that before my film even began there were 30 minutes of previews! Including a sneak peak into a stunt for the new Mission Impossible movie. Add to that the new trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, and a couple silly superhero movies that I won’t see and that makes a long movie even longer for the audience. In the end, this is a worthy sequel to Avatar. It should be filling theatres over the Christmas holiday, and if you are a movie fan, it should be you too. Updated that Avatar made $435M globally over this past weekend.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover: Netflix has released this re-telling of the D.H. Lawrence book, not read by me with Emma Corrin who starred as Lady Diana in The Crown Season 4. It is a period piece set around the time of WWI, in the English countryside. Newly married Connie is part of a wealthy, established, land-owning household, not dissimilar to Downton Abbey and the Crawleys, with her husband Clifford. He is about to head off to war. He comes back a man in a wheelchair and the challenges of life become readily apparent to the young couple. Clifford is painfully aware of his situation, as a husband and lover, but also importantly as the head of a name and household that needs an heir. He approaches his wife with a proposition that she can, without telling him any details, take on a lover and find a way to produce an heir. She had wanted children, but initially pushed back on his suggestion.
On the estate there is a gamekeeper, Oliver, who attracts her attention. The story unfolds with these two at her insistence engaging in an affair that becomes deeper than either had expected. I am sympathetic to all three involved in this triangle. None of whom had asked for this to take place and are doing what they can to maintain the current state. Certainly Clifford never wanted any of this, and he is trying to assist in keeping his bloodline. Connie has her place but wants a family and some love and affection from her husband which just isn’t happening. The most sympathetic for me is the innocent Oliver whose heart is overlooked as Connie initially looks for a transaction to take place. It never was taken into consideration that he may develop feelings for Connie. He calls this out directly. Over time, Clifford has trouble with this arrangement and acts out against it and others. He is less likeable and more cruel.
The acting was good, and Connie and Oliver have no difficulty with the nudity required in this film, which has been remade time and again in series and movies over the years. I haven’t read the book, but a part of me thinks that the resolution in it can’t be as it is here. I was thinking more along the lines of unrequited love, and money and power overcoming feelings of emotion with a woman and an employee. But watching some of these previous versions may inform that knowledge into the story a bit more. This is a rare occurence where Netflix becomes a littele more racey with nudity. If you like a period piece, then this could be for you.
Golden Globes: The nominations came out and I was surprised that Avatar was nominated for Best Picture. I don’t think that it is. Joining it is Top Gun: Maverick, Tar,The Fabelmans, and Elvis. The only one that I haven’t seen yet is The Fabelmans, which should be remedied over the holidays. It is a lean year. Much is being made about the snub of Tom Cruise as well as Will Smith. I guess they don’t need any more slapping incidents at this year’s awards ceremony. I am pleased that Ana De Armas was nominated for Blonde. I am surprised that Banshees of Inisherin gets all this love, for Best Picture Musical or Comedy, as well as acting nominations. I think those that run off to see this may have expectations set too high in what they are going to get. Either that or I missed the point entirely! Del Toro’s Pinnochio was nominated as Best Animated. The Awards take place on January 10th.
Pinocchio (Guillermo Del Toro version) 2022: This is NOT the Disney version of this story. It is done through stop motion animation, a very different process than drawn cell animation as the Disney version was done back in the day. Stop motion animation involves models that are painstakenly moved just tiny amounts for each shot of the film making process. So there are models, sets, background all created in which a person then needs to manipulate the characters within it. There are also different sized models to have scale for some of the shots. This was an expensive movie at $35M, and one can see why given all the details. A-list actors were also involved like Ewan McGregor, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Switon, Christoph Walz and David Bradley (from Harry Potter and Game of Thrones).
Guillermo Del Toro has a look about his movies. He has often employed fantastical characters within those movies. Think about Pan’s Labryinth or The Shape of Water. They can be dark, exploring the darkess of humans and how they treat one another. Generally I like his films, as I find him someone with a unique way of telling the stories. I had wondered allowed before seeing this on the Netflix menu whether I really needed to see another Piunocchio movie? I was skeptical. At the end, I decided to watch the Making Of Pinocchio 30 minute special, and I was more engaged and compelled with the making of this movie more than the movie itself. The details and the artistry within each frame is remarkable, and notably Gepetto and Pinocchio themselves. But the movie itself was a Meh for me.
The Disney story of Pinocchio for me has always been a bit clunky, with scenes of the young puppet, who gets distracted going to school, then ends up in a circus, followed by an island of misfit children, and more implausibly the insides of a whale (of all things). Much of the same ground is covered in this story. However it travels deeper, with themes of life and death, depression, belief in people as they are, and other areas. There is some time reference added with the introduction of Mussolini (yes the Italian dictator in the Second World War), along with a Nazi-like character. We have more backstory into Gepetto and his relationship with his son Carlo. What is a Disney story without death? In this case, Carlo dies tragically and Gepetto is depressed, angry and drunk, unable to shake the tragedy that has befallen him. The fairy of Life shows up, and brings the wooden puppet alive to make Gepetto’s life more full. We learn that Pinocchio can’t die, as seen with a new mythical character Death in an underground lair. One can see the influence of the Faun in these characters. They add depth to it, with a new wrinkle of how something that can’t die could be used in wartime. Much of the art is just beautiful. Taken on its own, it is a remarkable achievement. I thought that whale interpretation was excellent. This is a deeper movie for this story than I had anticipated. I am more impressed with the artistry in getting this movie on film. Yes, there are some songs, but this isn’t a musical. It is a movie with music in it. None of the songs are as memorable as “When You Wish Upon a Star” or “I Got No Strings”, and in truth they could have been skipped as far as I am concerned. In the end the question remains, “did I need to see another Pinocchio at this time?” The longer answer is that no only did Del Toro have this new version of the story, Disney themselves have released another on Disney+ with Tom Hanks from director Robert Zemekis (Forrest Gump and Back to the Future). I certainly didn’t need to see two of them! I haven’t watched the Disney re-make and have no intention on doing so. I would imagine that IF you need to see one, that this one is the one to choose.
She Said: From real-life drama to on screen drama with actors in a few short months seems to be where Hollywood is going. No sooner has disgraced, famed movie producer Harvey Weinstein from Miramax film been incarcerated for 23 years, there is a movie out starring Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan as the female version of Woodward and Bernstein from Watergate in Watergate, this time researching and outing Harvey and his predatory actions which were overlooked by the Hollywood establishment, including his own company for years. The real question becomes: why? Why would Miramax the company have an executive acting in this way, and settling numerous lawsuits with accompanying Non-Disclosure Agreement gag orders without doing something about it? People knew. Assistants, handlers, associates, and his own brother knew exactly what was going on! Harvey was enabled, protected, shielded and permitted to continue in his compulsive actions against young women.
The two New York reporters, get hold of the story about workplace sexual harrassment, focusing on the incidents from Miramax. Interestingly Megan Twohey, played by Mulligan, was part of reporting on the Donald Trump incidents before the election where even when reported, he was still elected. Fellow reporter Jodi Kantor was already running with the Miramax story, and getting stonewalled with no one willing to talk, and she decided to join in the story to assist in fereting out the truth with the people involved. Quickly they realized that there would only be a full release of stories if numerous victims came forward together. In time, it is found out that 12-18 settlements/gag orders were made with various victims. This became the basis on which the story was released. I had not realized that Ashley Judd, seen in the movie playing herself, was one of the early whistle blowers who went on record for the initial story. Rose McGowan I had certainly read about as one of the first people to come forward.
I found the movie itself to be rather slow. We know the end of the story, as it was in the recent headlines, so the key for me is what is uncovered along the way and the process that took place to get there. Reporting with the necessity in reputable publications involves research, fact-checking and corroborating sources to verify the facts. This discipline has been worn away with recent years in the age of opinion rather than facts. The lines of “news” have been blurred on political lines with the “fake news” accusations from the highest office in the US. The deeper question about why is it that the system protects the powerful, rich, perpetrator remains unanswered. There could be those who continue to argue that these aspiring actresses would have done anything to get famous and be part of these movies. The whole defense of Weinstein hinged on it, with their “consent” to these “consensual acts”. What emerges is a pattern in Weinstein’s actions that show the bully for what he truly was and is.
It has been in the news since incarceration that his health is ailing, with his teeth being the latest issue. He is in a wheelchair and was involved in smuggling Milk Duds into the prison which is against the rules. In short, he is requesting mercy from the Court, all the while facing additional charges against him for sexual impropriety. The vast majority of people, like me in this case, would think that karma is a bitch and it couldn’t happen to a more deserving person. As a movie this was okay. It is presently in the theatres and didn’t show much more than I had already seen or read about as the story unfolded. I think that Carey Mulligan is overrated. Just my opinion.
The Swimmers: I was encouraged by my Mom to check out this Netflix release. I am glad that I watched this. The story surrounds a family in Syria in the early 2000s. Dad was a swimmer himself and was teaching his girls, in many ways like Richard Williams with Serena and Venus, about being a champion and going to the Olympics. The goal was to swim for Syria in the Rio Olympics. In March 2012, fate stepped in with ongoing Civil War within the country. Remarkably with armed soldiers in the streets, military jets flying overhead, the girls continued with their training and their studies. Dad was committed to keeping the girls focused. The strife escalated, with a dramatic incident during a swim meet. The girls decided that they would flee Syria with a goal of going to Germany. Within Germany there was a program of family reunification for minors 18 years and younger. The girls with promises of continuing the training decide to take the unknown path of fleeing their country. Once in Germany they would seek the family to get back together again. The story continues.
I remember seeing news items during this time where the number of people leaving Syria was massive, and that people were losing their lives taking perilous journies in overcrowded boats to seek their salvation. At the end of the movie we are told that there were approximately 6.9 million people displaced since the beginning of the conflict, from a country that had a population of 21 million before the conflict began. The need for humanitarian aid hasn’t gone away. Many Syrians are still seeking asylum. To me it was interesting that Germany became the focal point, and they took on an enormous global burden.
The performances here were all very good. The scenes highlighted the gravity of the overall situation, and focused our attention on two engaging and different sisters (both in real life and in the story) who show the challenges of this very difficult time that still continues to this day. What has the world done to address the return of these people to their homeland? What CAN the world do against a country that splits their population and demands exile? The movie is well done and you cheer for these young girls. The acting is convincing, and the young actors involved are really good. I won’t divulge further what happens, but this story is obviously bigger than sport. I am certain that other world wide stories, like eventual stories that will come out from Ukraine will show other parts of the world, and in a time of preparations for holidays and end of year celebrations, the challenges that we have here in Canada are small in comparison to others in the world who are fighting for their very existence.
The Crown Season 5: I finished this season and felt that it was an inconsistent season overall. Some of the stories were slow, not revealing too much. I did not remember this whole debate about the Monarchy and the Royals, as between the weddings and the celebrations for the Queen and her longevity, it always seemed that there was plenty of support for her and the Royal family, especially William and Harry. I follow on with my initial thoughts about Elizabeth Debicki as Diana. Although way taller than Diana, the facial features and how she embodies her in the dress, mannerisms and voice are just remarkable. I am less enthused by Domenic West as Charles. The new King in reality cannot like this portrayal of him as this whiny King-in-waiting, looking to encourage Mommy to give up the crown. It’s not a good look when he meets with the Prime Minister without her knowledge and speaks of younger, more progressive men moving things forward. One would hope if this is all true, and there is much debate that it isn’t (which is very likely), that at his age now that he has toned that down some, and not as anxious to be impacting William’s birthright.
At the same time, the hairstyle for Camilla is spot on. Jonathan Pryce as Philip is not as effective for me, nor is Imelda Staunton. There is a scene with Charles and Diana post divorce where he just stops by, which I cannot imagine had ever happened. The story with the El Fayeds is not as compelling either. Diana was a target, and never had any peace it seemed, in many ways like Marilyn Monroe, who was also on film with a possibly more fictional story earlier this year. I do think that the people recognize Camilla more now, and that Charles has found his inner peace with the woman who clearly he has loved his entire life. The metaphors of the Brittania and other symbols range throughout the season, as relections on the Queen. William is seen as having challenges with being put in the middle of his feuding parents, while clearly being closer to Mom, he is uncomfortable with being her person to share her romantic life with him. Overall, in a series that has been excellent from the beginning, this season was not as strong for me. The final Season 6 will be coming, and we will have well covered ground with the death of Diana and the subsequent marriage of William and then Harry and maybe even seeing Andrew’s fall from grace with the scandal with Jeffrey Epstein.
Time Traveller’s Wife Series: I finsihed this series as well this week. I don’t have a lot more to add other than I am not seeing how much more that they can stretch a two hour film with side stories. Much of the movie addressed the whole idea of a child, and those challenges. Whether such child would have this same issue as the father. Only in the last episode of the series was this highlighted as a sticking point for the couple.
The Wonder: Florence Pugh has been busy. Already this year she was in the Olivia Wilde release with Harry Styles entitled Don’t Worry Darling. The 26 yo English actress was brought initially to my attention in her role in the bizarre psycho-drama Midsommar back in 2019. This Netflix release is a period piece set in 19th Century Ireland, with Pugh playing an English nurse being asked to observe a young girl who is said to have not eaten anything for three months. The scene is set for these two strangers.
As a nurse, when first told the tale of this young girl, she doesn’t believe it. Arriving in the town, there is a religious leader as well as a local doctor who direct her only to observe for a fortnight. The locals are looking for independent verification of what is happening in the town. The local people have already started to visit the young girl at her remote farmhouse thinking that something very spiritial is happening. We learn over time that there is a desire for this to be true. The family of the young girl had a boy who died earlier at a young age. The Mom is very determined that her children will go to heaven. Our nurse prefers to deal with science rather than religion.
Our nurse meets up with a reporter played by Tom Burke who is looking to write a story debunking the whole situation. To him, the girl is lying and the family is somehow finding a way to get nourishment into the girl. He wants the nurse to assist him. Things happen slowly. Predictably with the nurse watching the girl’s health deteriorates. Our nurse has her own reasons to ensure that her life isn’t for nothing. The solution to the problem is an interesting one.
I like Pugh. I think that she plays authentic and genuine characters. She seems to get put into situations in her films to date that have her character observe strange occurences and she needs to put them together. This is the most realistic situation and the most sad with a very young girl who has been led to put her own life on the line for those around her with obvious competing interests that have their own motivations. The Academy may like this movie more than the movie-going public. For me as someone who isn’t religious at all, I don’t see why anyone would be looking to sacrifice themselves for the sake of an unknown after-life. I certainly have no idea why a parent would be looking to carry on these attitudes at all.
The Time Traveller’s Wife: Back in 2009, Rachel McAdams starred with Eric Bana in an adaption of the Audrey Niffenegger book. It was okay. The story is a curious one with a man who is a time traveller, which means that suddenly and without warning he can disappear to another time. HBO decided to make this a new series starring Rose Leslie (from Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey – also Kit Harrington’s wife) and Divergent’s Theo James.
Female viewers will enjoy the fact that time travel doesn’t allow clothing to go through, and so the frequent time traveller Theo is buck naked time and again. He has no issue showing off his backside time and again in each episode. So why did this series have to be made? This is six episodes, and so much longer than the 1:48 running time of the original. They seem to be exploring more deeply into the trauma in the life of the young Henry. An event that at whatever age he is, he goes back to time and time again. In this version there are mutliple Henrys that can appear at the same place and the same time. Which would seem to be odd, and certainly flies in the face of what Doc stated in Back to the Future. Time travel provides all sorts of challenges, one of which is that Clare at a very young age learns that Henry has a wife named Clare. She is then fixated on him. You add time by adding the complexity for Henry having a girlfriend when Clare comes onto the scene and announces that she will be his future wife. Odd, really, that he wouldn’t already know this. Clare as a teenager then has an uncomfortable experience in a middle episode where she seeks assistance from an older Henry to avenge her honour.
Do Leslie and James have chemistry? This is crucial of course in a story that wants you to feel that this is a couple that is destined to be together. Maybe moreso than McAdams and Bana. But that isn’t all that difficult. Bana was and is a little too straight laced, showing less emotion than is likely needed for that outward romantic connection. In this instance there are various versions of Henry who can be identified by their haircuts mostly. They are quite poor haircuts which don’t reflect the times in the least. Leslie brings her fiestiest game to the relationship, in her best “you know nothing Jon Snow” way. Maybe that was the point. Clare needs to show more that she is aware of her situation, embraces it, and helps to shape Henry popping in and out of her life. Henry is an angry young man wondering why his defining moment as a young boy is something that he cannot seem to impact. I will continue to watch and see where they take this series. Hard to imagine that there is enough material to deal with a Season 2. But stranger things have happened.