Sally Hawkins for me was really kind of introduced for me with her performance in Blue Jasmine, where Cate Blanchett walked away with the Oscar. She was nominated in a Supporting Role and did not win. I had not remembered until doing some research that she won the 2009 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Happy Go Lucky (a film I have never seen). She even defeated Meryl Streep in Mamma Mia. For me, she reminds me more of Amanda Plummer who was a more quirky actress and known portraying slightly odd and unique characters. Sally then shot to prominence for her role in 2017 Best Picture Winner Shape of Water, where she was a deaf woman who happens upon a sea creature that was being tortured by his captures for his abilities. All this to say that until Shape of Water, I didn’t think that she was ready to carry a film, and even then there were strong performances around here. But I was introduced to the 2016 film called Maudie that she did (and is available on Crave). This is a film about Canadian artist and native Nova Scotian Maud Lewis. It also stars Ethan Hawke, who is very strong in his own right in this role. Maud is an eccentric and person who at first appears not always present and paying attention. Her brother early on is pawning her off on an Aunt, as the parents have passed and he was not prepared to look after her. The Aunt isn’t pleased, despite being paid. She is hurtful and nasty to Maud. Maud’s life takes a turn that is unexpected as she shows independence and assertiveness that was not revealed before then. The rest unfolds and I won’t spoil it. She lives in a small shack, with very modest means near Digby. She has everyday chores that she attends to, but also she expresses herself through the paints that she finds in the house. She paints. Flowers, seaside pictures and things around her. What at first seems rudimentary is filled with vibrant colours and has a style. At first she paints mostly small pictures, postcard size or smaller. A local visitor from New York admires and appreciates her work (and pays her 5 cents). Hawkins plays Maud incredibly well, from her quiet and jumbled dialog to the physical transformation of her body. Maud was challenged with arthritis later on in life, but even in early days she had a foot that lagged. All this is displayed by Hawkins and you get a real sense of the woman and what was driving her. Hawke too shows evolution in his character and his relationship with this woman. You can see how one life impacts another. As little as I knew of Sally Hawkins, I knew even less about Maud Lewis. The CBC has done interviews with her as she got more notoriety, including then Vice President Nixon wanting a picture from her. If you wonder, as I did, what are her paintings worth now, well the highest I saw was $22,000. I liked this film better than I thought I would. If film can peer into the life of another person, who you wouldn’t have ever met (or maybe you passed by on the road way driving in the country with a Paintings for Sale homemade sign) then this can give some greater insight. This movie shows that Shape of Water was no mistake, nor Happy Go Lucky.
In looking back upon my reviews, I don’t see a review for the classic space horror film Alien, which has spawned numerous sequences, and prequels. The original by Ridley Scott is a masterpiece of suspense and horror. It is filled with jumps, starts and surprises. It was released in 1979, just a couple short years after Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977. But it takes a different tack, but using the by-line “In space no one can hear you scream”. And there is remarkable costume work in the creation of the creature; both in its earliest form and the larger adult version. It won the Oscar for Best Effects-Visual Effects, with H.R. Giger there who created the creature. In short, it changed the game and challenged all others to follow to try and match it, in creativity and fierceness. This was a horrifying vision. The plot is simple enough, a mining ship is heading home with a load of minerals, and the crew is awoken early by the master computer (“Mother”) to check out a signal “of unknown origin”. For those fans of Prometheus and Alien Covenant you see the genesis of the ideas surrounding the creature (or those who came before) having seemingly crash landed on a desolate planet in a massive ship. There are hints of the Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey in ways that become apparent when the plot turns that way. A very young and strong willed Sigourney Weaver is introduced and she is the focus of the film eventually, and certainly in those sequels that came after. Ridley Scott would disclaim any responsibility for these but he eagerly took on the prequels back in 2012 (man 7 years ago already!). Suffice it to say that if you like suspense, and you like seeing the origins of science fiction thrillers then this is a good place to start. If you like Ridley Scott’s work, then this a film to see, especially if you liked the more recent prequels in this series.