Post Oscar musings (March 4th 2019)

First off, congratulations go out to Alison once again as our Three-peat Officepool winner of the pool.   She consistently can out pick and guess the rest of us.   I thank everyone who took the time to join and have (hopefully) some fun with the choices.

On to the awards itself, I have to say that I liked that there wasn’t a host.   From the beginning we had a good start with no hosts and just presenters.  I honestly didn’t see a great deal of the presentations live as I was out with hockey.  So I saw Best Supporting Actress given out (Regina King) which I felt was very deserving, even though I had not see the film.   I picked it up with Best Actress and like the rest of the world, and winner Olivia Colman herself, was the most shocked and surprised with Glenn Close clapping along with everyone else for The Favourite performance.   Wow!

I really felt Richard E Grant should have won, but I am not upset with two-time winner, Mahershala Ali.   I was thrilled Roma didn’t win Best Picture.   I shrugged my shoulders at Best Director and was pleased with The Green Book.   The Green book was the TIFF People’s Choice Award this year, and it was a feel-good story.  It is a little campy.   But it had good performances and a good message.   So that’s fine.   There are other years that I cannot believe what was selected.   In the end, it doesn’t matter.  The public will decide which films endure and which they want to see year after year.   So while a Winner like Shakespeare in Love is a footnote to the Harvey Weinstein story, Saving Private Ryan lives on and is remembered as the true gem.   As an artist, isn’t that really what you want out of your art?

Generally the fashion was okay, with some notable surprises like Rachel Weisz wearing some ridiculous rubber piece around her shoulders.   Others were looking very frumpy, say Maya Rudolph.   The men tend to wear these suits that all look a size or two too small.  Whatever.   But we move along and hope that the 2019 films provide a greater pool from which to decide.   Happy movie viewing.   In short 2018 were no where as good as 2017.


March 4th, 2019

I had heard mixed reviews about Mary Queen of Scots, and it’s one of the reasons that I decided to wait this long to see it.   When I saw the trailers, I thought that a film with Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan, about Queen Elizabeth would be fascinating.   I knew that the producers got the Mary Queen of Scots story wrong in Cate Blanchett’s Elizabeth.   I later read A Column of Fire by Ken Follett and it shed more light on this period of time in England, and how Mary was kept in England but kept basically under house arrest for 19 years.   So she went in a young woman, and came out much older and in worse health.   Stones castles will do that in the 1500s.    The feedback on the film was that it was too slow, and confusing as to who was fighting whom.   There were endless scenes of horses riding back and forth.   So in short, it wasn’t very compelling.   I can see where that comes from.   Still in the age when women were more than second class citizens, this story shows two independent minded and strong willed women who fought back hard against the traditions.   The men all mill about and complain about being controlled by women, and looking to quickly marry these women off to someone who they can control better.   It wasn’t going to happen.   Elizabeth was married to her throne and her position, while Mary was an early widow and then married but found ways to turn the table on her man.   But in the end it was a fatal flaw that, like in most Shakespearean tragedies takes down the main character.   So too in this story.   Mary even when put in a precarious position, of looking for assistance, was incapable of being able to be humble and take a perceived lower station.   In the end it was surprising to see Ronan looking every bit the same as in the beginning taking her punishment.   I also will point out that at times the male combatants were all dressed the same and fighting one another and it became difficult to tell them apart.  I think that was the point with the Scots battling one another when they had bigger enemies to address.  As an aside I will state that Hollywood will be hard pressed to make Margot Robbie look any worse than she does.   I never knew that Elizabeth suffered from the pox, and it took a toll on her physical appearance.   So despite not loving this, I was glad that I saw it.   I think Ronan is making good choices for her career, even those films like On Chesnil Beach where she isn’t in all the local cineplex bunkers.   She shows a great range of emotion and convinces you of what her character is experiencing.    So if you like her, then check it out.

After having read an article on about about who will won, who should win and who should have been nominated:

From this article was Toni Collette in Hereditary which I knew I had seen on Netflix.   So it was time to check it out.  This is NOT a movie for the feint of heart.  It is a psychological thriller in every sense of the word.   It has a remarkable screen play and non-traditional story.   It starts off simple enough with a family of four, addressing the death of Grammy (Mom’s Mom) where Toni Collette plays the Mom.   Alison had provided me with a review which I re-read and think it very well described what happens from the plot.  It can’t be captured in a few sentences of a review.   It could take many, many pages to actually write out in a way that is understandable.   There are moments of utter shock, where at that moment I had to text out!!   These are the “holy shit” moments where you are not believing what you are seeing.   Toni Collette plays unhinged as well as anyone, with a woman on verge of a breakdown.   And her suffering husband Gabriel Byrne can only watch from the front row.   To what end are you prepared to go to protect your family and your children?    There are moments of raw emotion and you can feel the hurt and suffering.   It was a work out.   And it will stay with you.   It will stay with me to the point where I know I need to watch it again, and see how the puzzle pieces come together.  Because it does come together in a way that the closing 30 minutes is just not capable of being described.  As I watched I wondered what the heck the title had to do with anything.   Then again, it comes together.  If this isn’t your genre then stay away.   If you like a good scare, and a mental challenge, you will likely enjoy this a great deal.   I used to say that there haven’t been many really good horror movies since The Exorcist, which I still regard as the height of the craft (And I don’t mean serial killer teenage hack and slash films (Friday 13th, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street et el)).   But A Quiet Place and now this would be regarded by me as quality additions to the genre.   They are welcome.

February 25th, 2019

on Friday I managed to get out and take in Vice, which concluded the last of the Best Picture Oscar nominees.   I had Alison telling me that she didn’t like it at all, and others like my brother that thought it was decent.   Given the three acting nominees for Bale, Adams and Best Supporting Acting Winner last year Sam Rockwell.   In terms of structure and tone it felt a great deal like The Big Short.   That’s not much of a surprise given you have the same Director (Adam McKay).  Brad Pitt involved in producing this, as well as many of the same actors including Steve Carrell and Bale.  While that worked more in The Bug Short, it was less effective on my viewing.   I found the false credit rolling and the soliloquy scene in the bedroom false.   It just seemed force.   The performances are strong, and Bale embodies Dick Cheney in a way that he just disappears into the character.   Lynn Cheney, played by Amy Adams is shown to be the driving force in his life, and she plays that Lady MacBeth character well.   She challenges and pushes early under-achiever Dick well up to the highest levels of power in the US government.   He wasn’t and isn’t a speech-maker and won’t be elected for those powerful positions, but he works hard and behind the scenes.   He gets things done obviously, which put him into the position he was.   And he was loyal to his family and his two daughters.   I had to commend him early on his stance to protect and support his daughter.  He made that clear in his negotiation with George W Bush.   Now Dubya, what can you say about this characterization of him, as the Daddy-inspired empty shirt who becomes President.    He was so willing to pass along most of the important areas of concern for any President (foreign relations, military etc) that you realize that Cheney saw an opportunity and took it.   He was likely the most powerful Vice President in history.   And after him, the role has reverted back to more or less a symbolic one.   Obama certainly didn’t let Joe Biden take on anything important or crucial.   Pense for Trump just as uninvolved.   But it remarkable that in a system of checks and balances, that the VP role can fly between the House and the Senate.   And no one was stepping up to share that this was against the principles of the underlying government.   The US fought a war of independence to get away from Kings and monarchs.   You also see the beginnings of the Fox Network, and politically slanted news, which is now more prevalent than ever before.   It is scary to see just how influential that one more can be.   From that perspective this film is a cautionary tale on the potentially challenges with a weak leader.   This is even more poignant today.    The Big Short told a scary story about the financial system and corrupt structure collapsed in 2008.  This film tells a scary story about a man, his wife, and how they shaped a new role for the Vice Presidency.   Maybe it was the lack of Margot Robbie in a hot tub that took away from the impact of Vice.  Not sure.

One of the many snubs for this years Oscars was the documentary about Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers to you and me) entitled Will You Be My Neighbour?   The story documents his story and becoming a children’s television icon over the course of his 33 year career on the show.   What started out as a low budget local program from Pittsburgh PA, became every day watching for thousands of young children.   Rogers, not surprisingly, was Presbyterian Minister who came to realize that he was more of an impact by addressing children through this new medium, and giving them a sense of importance and empowerment.   It was a different kind of pulpit, but it spoke to the children.   He accomplished this by mostly dealing with puppet characters who lives in his World of Make Believe.   There was a King, and some various other characters who were all voiced by Rogers himself.   He had guest stars, but he made a point that he was not in this world.    He had dealt with weighty topics like divorce, and terrorist attacks and other important events that surrounded the world of his viewers.   As someone who grew up during these days, I enjoyed watching this background scenes into the world of his show.   From music, to story, to puppets and keeping a consistent message, he watched and participated directly into three generations of children.    Perhaps one of his greatest feats was his appearance standing before a House Committee that was considering cutting the funding for public TV.   He single-handedly spoke sense to the government decision-makers rather than numbers and business plans that they were able to concede “I can understand this”, after he talked about making children feel special.    This like the documentary shows a remarkable man and his impact.

See that testimony here:


Oscar Week Begins

Things are getting ramped up in LA in preparation for the Oscars on Sunday night.   I can’t think of a year where I have struggled so mightily with the Best Picture as this year.  For certain I have had questions about the ultimate selection of which film was selected in years past, but in my own head I had a pretty good idea of the Best Film (last year I felt that Dunkirk was best and Three Billboards was a close second).    Incidentally having recently watched the Extras in the Blu-Ray for Dunkirk, and what they did to get this on film, I reaffirm my conviction on that.

RDM Oscar

Here is me at Warner Bros Studios Tour with an actual Oscar in my hand (it’s heavier than you think).

As for those those Best Picture nominees, the only film at this point I have not seen is Vice.   That needs to be done this week.   It also addresses Best Actor (Bale), Best Supporting Actor (Rockwell) and Supporting Actress nominations (Adams).   If I do that, I have seen all Best Actor nominees (save Willem Dafoe which I dearly want to see) and all Best Actress nominees, plus Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (save Regina King).    I will set up my OfficePools Oscar contest and send out to those who received last year.   If you didn’t receive and want to participate, send me a line.    It costs nothing, and you only get respect from those who you better (Alison is our reigning Queen of the Oscars for back to back years).   Can she three-peat??    We’ll find out on Sunday, or perhaps not if she doesn’t find a wifi spot on the beach!!   Stay tuned.   Enjoy the Oscars and happy picking!!

Or if you choose to be proactive and participate on your own, you can join here:



February 18th, 2019 (Family Day)

The Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Shoplifters, explores the nature of the family, and what the needs of its various members are from a unique perspective.   This particular group of people are in Japan, and as we find them they are living in squalor, with an elderly woman as Grandma.  There are also an older man, a couple women, and then a young boy.   They early on in the film come upon a very young little girl who has been left outside on a bitter night by her parents.    Each member contributes in their own way, with the older man showing the boy how to be able to shoplift effectively.   Other members have stories which reveal themselves over time, and there are some surprising twists.  The viewers collective experience will colour how we view these people from the beginning and then the assumptions will be challenged.  For me, I was assuming a tight knit family but it is put into question early as the boy interacts with the older man.   Something happens later in the film and puts all of the stories into question as you examine the individual histories more carefully.  It pieces together effectively and once again that age old question of “nature vs nurture” is involved.   Are you really a “Mother” because you have given birth to another human being?   Or is it more than that?   Of course it is – there are so many things that make it up, including being present, showing affection or as billboard says I past just today, “children need roots and wings”.   I agree.    People who should know better do things that they know that they shouldn’t.   But maybe this is really what they feel they can offer, but the truth is that they offer a lot more than that without actually knowing what they are offering and doing.    This was good and I enjoyed it.   Certainly I liked this more than Roma, but that isn’t really a high bar for me.

On Netflix, I won’t ever get back the hours spent watching The Sinner with Jessica Biel.   Bill Pullman as mentioned earlier is a detective who was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.   Each of the characters have their own issues.   Many are hidden, and the viewing shouldn’t even try to guess.  Early on there is a horrific attack by the Beal character who has already shown that she has issues.   Detective Pullman is trying to figure out the puzzle.   May I state that the puzzle is contrived and ridiculous as it unravels.  And from one silly turn to another until ultimately I had to throw up my hands and shake my head at where it all went.   It is ridiculous and contrived, and may I say that I am hard pressed to say I can think of another story which revolves so much around wallpaper.   And maybe a dedicated and concerned detective might actually spend the time to put this mess altogether, but really……not really.   So I can say emphatically that this is something to pass on.

Also on Netflix there is the Two Killings of Sam Cooke.   This documentary explores the bizarre and controversial killing of mega-star and singer Sam Cooke.   The man who had the unique and melodic voice with such hits as “What A Wonderful World”, “Chain Gang”, “You Send Me” among others.   He was an icon and a worldwide superstar at the same height as Elvis.   He was also very cognizant of his people, and the inequality throughout the US, and especially in the South.   This is not unlike the background from Green Book.  This was a man who was killed at the age of 33, at the top of his game.   He had embarked on owning his own label and supporting other black artists.    He was threatening the current establishment in the record industry.   He was also close friends with Jim Brown, Cassius Clay (and they actually performed a song together) and Malcolm X.   Months after they met together in a hotel room, two of them were dead.    There was no investigation by the LAPD.   The small little hotel where Cooke lay crumpled on the floor shot, was concluded by the LAPD to be justifiable homicide because Cooke was forcefully trying to get into another room after money was taken from him.   Turns out the woman he was with, was a known call girl for the mob.   Now had this happened to Frank Sinatra or Elvis or another top music icon, then there would have been thorough investigations.   In the end you can draw your own conclusions.   But this is a worthwhile re-visit into a period of history where times were indeed changing.   Authority was being questioned.   A war was being protested.   And the status quo was being challenged on all fronts.

February 11th, 2019

The “Find” this week of the three movies that I saw, at least worth reporting on, would be The Wife with Academy Award nominated and Golden Globe winner Glenn Close.   This is a really good film with a story that unravels slowly, and reveals itself with some flashbacks and current events with a couple.   He is a writer, who early on wins the Nobel Prize for literature.   I give nothing away by saying that.  The husband and wife, have two children (an elder daughter and aspiring writer adult son).  Daughter is pregnant and doesn’t make the trip to Sweden.  The couple attends various events in preparation for the big celebration.  Beyond this I really can’t give much more away without saying too much.  I think this film will really only be fully appreciated upon a second viewing.   There are certain things that are revealed that can colour one’s viewing at the time, but then only upon reflection can you piece together the earlier parts.   So I won’t say any more about the plot.   This film was apparently 14 years in the making, and it took courage to fund it.  I saw it on DVD, and it is in limited release in Toronto.  Glenn Close’s daughter plays the earlier version of her character in College when she first meets her future husband.   Jeremy Irons’ son plays the aspiring writer son.  Interesting.   This was worthwhile.   It is a story about a woman, and the choices that she makes.   Close does some of her best work.   She has been nominated seven times for an Academy Award.   There may be those who think that this is a lifetime achievement award, and I have little doubt that she will finally win Best Actress, but this role stands on its own merit.   Just see how she reacts at the end of the film., for example.    As I texted to Alison “See it,  Just see it…”   She already had.

Movie two was BlacKkKlansman which was another true story that is directed by Spike Lee (nominated again for an Academy Award).  This is the first time he has been nominated for Directing.   Do The Right Thing was nominated for Writing and Screenplay.   This story begins in the early 1970s when the ongoing antagonism between black and white was once more time coming to a head with the Vietnam War, among other things.   The movie’s focus is from a young black police officer (the first in Colorado Springs Co) who in short order infiltrates the KKK, by calling a local number and talking with a recruiter.   He actually ended up having numerous conversations with David Duke himself, the Grand Master of the Order at the time.   When a meeting takes place, he has a Jewish colleague make the meeting.   There are good scenes, well acted by passionate people from both sides (both representing more militant factions of Black Power and White Power movements).   Lee effectively shows how each side tolerates and accepts the more radical sides of their beliefs.   He also effectively shows how those troubled days in the 70s have laid the foundation for the current Trump administration in 2019.   The slogans during the election are used from back in the day, and you can see where hate leads.   How divisive the language is and how the policies of separation and protectionism have crept back in to protect power and keep people of colour (all colours) at bay.   This was a good film too and both youngest son and I enjoyed the history lesson and a few chuckles when the Klan and those that support it, are made to look ridiculous, no matter how much of a smiling face they want to put on it.

Finally, the final film was in the theatre, again with a more historical underpinning with On The Basis of Sex, which is the Ruth Bader Ginsburg film starring Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer.    I did not see the CNN documentary on the Supreme Court Justice, but this is a story about her relationship with her husband, and the one case in particular that they tried together in the Colorado Appeals Court.   She was one of the first women to attend Harvard Law School.   Her husband was the year ahead of her.   He moved to a job in NYC when he completed school and she went him (along with her infant child) to finish at Columbia Law School.    Harvard refused to give her her diploma from the school.   Never mind as she went on to great things, despite not being able to land a job in NYC after finishing first in her class, and on the Law Review in BOTH Harvard and Columbia.   Different times then, and she became a professor.   On the legal side, she and her husband represented a man, who was denied a Care Givers deduction on his taxes from the IRS because he was a man.   He was never married, and took care of his ailing Mother.    Only a woman could obtain the deduction and the Colorado court of first instance agreed with the ruling.    It was amazing to see the Government argue that the many hundreds of cases which discriminated against one sex or the other were too voluminous to justify overturning the initial decision.   The ACLU, and Ruth and her husband had to be creative and convince a panel of three Appellant judges that they could do right.   It is shocking to think about just how few years it was when women were not treated equally.   A generation.   And this is an ongoing theme of this week’s films.   Both this movie and The Wife show societies that aren’t ready for women to be on equal ground.   That the fabric of society is set, and unchanging.   As they point out in this movie, the law lags behind as society changes.  Precedent is a funny thing, as it binds you to the past, even when the world around you no longer thinks that way.   I know the “liberal” thinkers in the US are praying for good health for Madam Justice Ginsburg, as they hope the Trump Administration doesn’t get a chance to nominate another Supreme Court Justice who will shape the laws for the coming decades (and it is decades).   There is a good history lesson in this film, and in the life of this remarkable woman.  Perhaps the most poignant for me is in her own realization that her life’s work to that point wasn’t just for her, but her strong willed daughter, who stood up for herself and wasn’t afraid to voice her discontent for what she felt was injustice around her.   This was a good film.  As the son of a strong-willed woman, I appreciate it even more – women in those days really were Super-Women who took care of the house, the kids, the career all the while being treated as a second class citizen.    Thanks to all those who stayed the course and redirected the sails in a direction that we are still finding today.

February 4th, 2019

This past week I saw a couple of Academy Award nominated films.   First was Green Book which was the TIFF People’s Choice film, and has been nominated for Best Actor (Viggo Mortensen) and Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali) as his employer.  This is very much a Driving Miss Daisy type film where there are two people from very different backgrounds who find themselves learning and appreciating about each other more.   This is based on a true story, and is set in the early 60s in the US.   Ali plays a very accomplished black pianist who wants to do a road show starting in the northern US but then heading into the deep south (Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama etc).   Viggo plays an Italian street-smart thug and bouncer required to help assist in driving but also protecting his employer.   Ali’s character is part of a trio who travels together, but in separate cars.    Ali teaches Viggo to write better and assists with letters to his Wife and two kids he leaves behind for a three month trek hat ends on Christmas Eve.   Viggo teaches his employer about current day music and more everyday eating for his uptight and secluded passenger.    Speaking of eating, Viggo basically ate his way through this movie, from an early hot dog eating contest, to spaghetti and the pizza folded in a hotel room.   He must have added 30+ pounds from his days of Aragon in Lord of the Rings.   This is a good story.  It has some predictable scenes, and an ending that ratchets up the cheese factor.   Still two very good performances, although I would suggest that Ali is more likely to win the Award.    For a movie that tries hard to break down stereotypes, and show a man courageously enlightening those in the South, it paints a stereotypical view of the Mortensen Italian character with almost every cliché you can imagine.    Funny I had never looked into actor Viggo Mortensen’s background and I had assumed it was European.   But in truth, he was born in Manhattan, to a Dutch father (Viggo Sr) and American mother.   His maternal grandfather was Canadian (Nova Scotia).    They met in Norway (everybody has a story it seems).    This was a movie well worth the time spent.   It’s not necessarily a big screen film.

Also in the theatre I saw Can You Ever Forgive Me?   This is a movie where Melissa McCarthy is nominated for Best Actress while her co-star, Richard E Grant is nominated for Best Supporting Actor.  This is another story based on true facts.   McCarthy plays Lee Israel, an author of books and magazine articles, mostly biographies.   The story begins with her on hard times in the early 1990s in NYC.   She hasn’t written anything worth publishing in quite some time and she can’t make the rent.   She has an alcohol problem, and doesn’t interact well with people.   In fact she is just nasty all around.   You wouldn’t invite Israel over for dinner.   She runs into the Grant character at a bar and they have an uneasy friendship.   By happenstance, Israel learns that there is a market for celebrity letters.   She moves from selling what she owned to eventually forgeries that she has written herself.   The story continues down this path.    The true find is the Grant character.   He is a chameleon who is a survivor.   He finds ways to scrape by and live in New York.   The actor has been in many other roles and films, but he is really good.   You have sympathy for him while you see he can also be someone with a big heart and help out with Israel and some of her challenges.     Is he better than Ali in Green Book?   Hard to say, but they are close.   This is not an uplifting story, nor a particularly happy one.   There is angst on the faces of McCarthy about what they are doing, and who they are potentially hurting – but an underlying feeling that this is just about survival.   Again not a movie one needs to see in the big theatre, but it was worth the time.

On Netflix I saw the movie The Ice Man, another true story about  Richard Kuklinski, a New York contract killer and thug who also was a strong family man.  He lived this double life, with a loving wife (played by Winona Ryder) and relationships with mobsters, like Ray Liotta acting as Roy Demeo.   These guys are around the time of the Gottis (70s and 80s).   I will make a quick first note that one of the worst miscastings I have seen in some time is David Schwimmer as a mobster.   Even with long hair, he just doesn’t look like a guy from the mob.   Not at all.     Shannon is real find in this film, as he shows a level of intensity in this character that becomes so believable.   He is scary when he gets wound up, and he takes the role to another level.   It is an intensity in his eyes and how he carries himself.   If you were working with him on set I would think that it would be intimidating.    He is a big man (6’4”) and Kuklinski himself was 6’5”.   So the simple story about how this man can lead the double life, is interesting but it has been done before.   If you want to see just how good Michael Shannon can be, then check this out.   He can be a bad guy, like last year’s Best Picture The Shape of Water.

Also on Netflix, I caught the Bruce Springsteen Concert, where more or less he played an acoustic version of a few known songs but actually just told stories on stage about his childhood.   He is a good story teller, and interestingly talks about how although his songs are mostly blue collar, that he hasn’t been that way at all in his life.   He plays piano.   Who knew?   So he is a multi-talented guy who has written many classic songs.   I was glad to have seen it, although I would still like to see him with the E Street Band in a full concert.

Also on Netflix, I watched Whitney which walked through the life of superstar singer Whitney Houston.   Taken too soon, but someone who fell into the trappings of fame, and surrounded herself by too many family who treated her as their own personal ATM.   Near the end she was sued by her father for $100M, for a contract with a record company that he said he procured.   The prevailing story about her was that Bobby Brown ruined her, and began her long road down to addiction.   This documentary hints that this is not the case.   It just seems to go with the territory, with too much money, too much fame and too many Yes-people surrounding you.   It killed Amy Winehouse.    It killed Michael Jackson, and Jim Morrison and so many other musicians and celebrities.

Finally Netflix has the Ted Bundy Tapes which is a four part series which examines the case of Ted Bundy, the notorious serial killer who made the term come into the language.   I did not know much about Bundy.   He started in Washington and then moved to Colorado and onto Florida.   He was a narcissist, ego-maniac, who felt he was smarter than everyone.   He had a God complex, and was brutal with his victims.    He played the legal system to its fullest where there was no instant communication, no fax machines.   No way for police to exchange information.   Yet for all his bravado, and over-confidence, he is caught in a State (Florida) that has the death penalty.   He was executed in 1989.  The 30th anniversary of the death (January 24th) was last month.    I enjoyed Manhunt: Unabomber better than this, but this was still interesting.    There were a couple of moments where things happened which were simply unbelievable.  I won’t detail them now but they were just shocking.   Bundy played the system and self-represented himself for much of it for 10+ years.   In the end, justice was served, and people cheered when he was gone.